Three Weeks In

Abi is now three weeks into her chemotherapy protocol, and her care has switched back to our local hospital. That means that she will not have to miss school for treatment.

Abi has just had her blood counts taken. Here are the results:

Haemoglobin: 10.1 grammes per decilitre (gm/dL) of whole blood.

Haemoglobin is the protein molecule in red blood cells that is responsible for carrying oxygen from lungs to the body’s tissues and carbon dioxide from the tissues back to the lungs. The usual range for young girls is 11.5 to 15.5 gm/dL. Although Abi’s Haemoglobin was low, it is only a real concern if it gets below 7 gm/dL.

White blood cells: 3,600 cells per cubic millimetre (mm³) of blood.

White blood cells are one of the cells of the immune system that are responsible for protecting the body against infections. Normal ranges are between 4,300 and 10,800 cells/mm³. So again, Abi’s count was low, but this is expected for a young child on Vinblastine.

Neutrophils 1,200 cells per microlitre (mcL) of blood.

A Neutrophil is a type of mature white blood cell made in the body’s bone marrow. It is one of the two most common types of white blood cell (the other is lymphocytes), and they are an important factor in helping the body fight bacterial infections. Normal ranges are 1,500 to 8,000 cells/mcL. So, once again, Abi’s count here was a bit on the low side. However, only if the Neutrophil count falls within the range 500 – 1000 cells/mcL would there be a real concern.

Platelets 288,000 platelets per microlitre of blood.

Platelets are parts of the blood that help the blood clot. So they help stop bleeding and prevent excessive bruising. Normal ranges are 150,000 - 400,000 platelets/mcL. At last, Abi fell within the normal range.

Even if the counts cause concern, the first course of action would be to lower the dose of Vinblastine, perhaps stop giving it for a week or two. In the most extreme cases, a blood transfusion might be required.

What I hadn’t realised was that the regime of chemotherapy on Monday and blood counts on Friday was going to continue for the whole year. That was going to be disruptive and have a significant impact on our summer. No festivals this year. Those festivals help us cope with all the other pressures. And Abi adored Glastonbury last year, as did Kara. One particular family friendly festival had become a permanent fixture on our calendar. I wasn’t sure how I was going to break it to the girls that we wouldn’t be going to them this year. Indeed, Kara was going to need careful management to prevent her blaming Abi for her not being able to go to those festivals. I’m going to have to plan carefully and, instead, find other fun things to fill our time.

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