Rising hemoglobin levels

Last week I had I met with my oncologist during my regularly scheduled maintenance infusion. During this appointment, my oncologist noted that my hemoglobin levels were continuing to rise. In this post, I will briefly blog about hemoglobin, what my oncologist said, and what I may have to change. 

What is hemoglobin

I have to admit that I had no idea what hemoglobin was to be precise, I just knew it had to do with blood. Over the last half-year or so, my oncologist has mentioned my hemoglobin levels. But there were always more significant issues to talk about, so I never really put much thought into what she said. She also took the time to explain why hemoglobin is so essential.

Since I can’t remember exactly how my oncologist explained hemoglobin to me, I will share this definition from MedicineNet:

Hemoglobin is the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues back to the lungs.

MedicineNet

What the oncologist said about my hemoglobin levels

First, my oncologist noted that my current hemoglobin levels are still within the acceptable range. It just that they have slowly but steadily increased. Right now, my hemoglobin levels are right at the top of the acceptable range. If things continue like they are, it is likely my hemoglobin levels will be out of range in a future appointment.

Increased hemoglobin means my body is trying to get more oxygen throughout my body. In my case, the oncologist believes two possible underlying conditions may be causing my body to need more oxygen. These conditions are sleep apnea and being a smoker.

First, I have sleep apnea and possibly am not wearing my CPAP mask as much as I should. I probably wear my CPAP mask about half the time when sleeping. It has been very hard getting used to wearing a mask at night. Of the times I do wear a mask, I am usually only keeping my mask on for part of the night. Sometime during the night, I will usually remove the mask while sleeping. 

Looking forward, I am going to try wearing the mask more consistently. I get better quality sleep when wearing the mask. It is just so annoying to try keeping it on.

The second factor noted by the doctor is the fact I am a smoker. She wants me to focus on stopping smoking now. Smoking is an issue I plan to blog about soon (by request of many fellow cancer survivors). In this post, I will say that I will be trying to quit again. But this is a very complicated issue that many cancer patients wish to avoid speaking about with others. It does, however, make sense that smoking would cause the body to want more oxygen.

What I plan going forward

Going forward, I plan to tackle both areas the oncologist pointed out to me. First, I plan to ensure that I am always going to bed with my CPAP on. Even if I travel, I will bring the machine with me and use it. Second, I once again plan to quit smoking. I know I should want to. But a big part of me does not want to stop, and I’ll wait for a future post to discuss that. Hopefully, by making these changes, or at least attempting to do better, my hemoglobin levels will stop rising.

Song of the day: Let It Bleed

Talking about blood brought this classic Rolling Stones song to mind. It’s actually a really good song for anyone going through cancer because having a good support structure is important. The opening verse explains it all:

Well, we all need someone we can lean on
And if you want it, you can lean on me
Yeah, we all need someone we can lean on
And if you want it, you can lean on me

Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed

This is a great live version of the song from 1998.

Bonus Song: Give Blood

Lyrically, Give Blood is not one of Pete Townshend’s (The Who) greatest songs. But this song features David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) on guitar and musically is one of my favorite Townshend songs. The fact it happens to be named Give Blood is enough reason for me to use it with this post.

One year of maintenance complete

Earlier today, the IV injected me with my latest maintenance round of Rituximab. When speaking to my oncologist, she noted it was a year ago that I had my first round of maintenance. That means I am technically halfway through my maintenance experience. In this post, I will briefly summarize how my last year of maintenance has gone.

Recap of the previous year

For me, maintenance truly began when I decided whether to do maintenance infusions or not. Mostly I decided to do maintenance because my oncologist recommended I do so, and I am willing to do whatever it takes to extend my quality time with family

The actual infusion of Rituximab during the first round of maintenance was a non-event. Getting the actual injection each round has also been a non-event. The Benadryl knocks me out, and I don’t even remember most of each infusion. Even today, the injection was a non-event; well, besides the nurse having to try a second time to get the IV in.

About a week and a half after my first maintenance infusion, I noted a lack of sleep, irritability, and chills as side-effects. Over the last year, I continue to have a lack of sleep and irritability for sure (my kids will attest to that). Luckily though, the chills have gone away. About half a year after my first maintenance infusion, the chills were replaced by “not feeling right” with almost flu-like symptoms. That is still happening to me following each round of maintenance. It seems to get better as time goes on and is almost completely gone about a week or two before I go back for another round.

Today’s infusion of Rituximab

Today was once again a non-event. There was one highlight. Since my wife is working at the tax office, she was not able to bring me to today’s infusion. Instead, I was fortunate to hang out with a friend who was generous to bring me. Well, at least for the parts I was able to stay awake.

I did speak with my oncology doctor, and she let me know my hemoglobin numbers are concerning. Later this week I will post about that. There are some changes I’m probably going to have to work harder on specific life changes. She also talked about my short term memory issues and said if they continue or become dangerous (such as when driving), we may look at other options.

There was one significant change today compared to other maintenance infusions. To get into town this morning, I had to drive through whiteout blizzard conditions. I did not want my friend to do that to bring me home. So instead of resting at home like I usually would, I am now at the office working. Well, not working since I am a little dizzy when moving around. But, I can write, and so I thought a blog post or two on my various blogs was in order. I am happy I don’t have brain fog as bad as while I was going through full chemo.

Happy to be halfway through

I am thrilled to be halfway through maintenance. While I have had some side-effects, I don’t see any of them as being deal-breakers. Short-term memory loss is concerning. But that seems to ebb and flow alongside maintenance infusions. And I don’t mind the “wrong” feeling that occurs after each maintenance cycle. I will put up with these mild side-effects if it means more time with my wife and kids! But I will say I am also delighted that I am now on the downhill side of maintenance infusions.

Song of the day: One Year of Love

I’ve been in a real Queen mood lately. When writing a post about being on maintenance for one year, this classic Queen song came to mind. And actually, it is the love for my wife and kids that is making me want to do maintenance.

Bonus Song: Me & Paul

Today’s bonus song has nothing to with today’s post.

Earlier this week Paul English died. He was the legendary drummer for Willie Nelson and quite an interesting character. The track Me & Paul by Willie Nelson chronicles some of the adventures the two artists had together. RIP Paul English.

Actually as I contemplate the lyrics of this classic song I think maybe the song is related to today’s post:

It’s been rough and rocky traveling
But I’m finally standing upright on the ground
After taking several readings
I’m surprised to find my mind’s still fairly sound

Willie Nelson, Me & Paul

Once again sharing the Cancer Signs and Symptoms Infographic on #WorldCancerDay

February 4th is World Cancer Day. I had planned on doing a big post about World Cancer Day and what people can do to help others with cancer. But after looking at my site statistics, I see that last year’s World Cancer Day post I wrote was viewed and shared by a lot of people. In that post, I shared an infographic with some signs and symptoms people should be on the lookout for to possibly detect cancer. This year I will once again share that graphic. I know I had many symptoms, yet I refused to go to the doctor. Had I gone to a doctor sooner, I might have had more treatment options. Hopefully, seeing this infographic may help someone get to the doctor and detect any cancer before it is too late.