My Story

Playing the Fever Card

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. After posting just last week that I had been “blessed to have not even a sniffle of any infection or illness in the past 3 months”, I woke up on Sunday to a scratchy throat.  That was all, just an irritated sensation in my throat.  But it didn’t go away.  I attended church (Palm Sunday), then had supper out with friends at a local brew pub.  Fabulous beef brisket pot roast with no potatoes and extra kale.  Because my friend also has a delicate immune system, I made sure to sit as far away from him as possible, and we didn’t exchange hugs or any type of contact. 

We drove home from dinner in a miserable, ice-pellety, windy late winter storm and were just nicely settled into our armchairs for the remainder of the evening.  I was looking forward to going to bed early, in the hopes of kicking whatever it was that was bugging my throat.  I had checked my temp in the afternoon and it was fine, but when I popped my digital thermometer into my mouth that evening, it started beeping and fussing in a way that it never had before!  And the screen was red…  Not good.  38.6.  Oh crap!!

Normal body temp is 37 degrees C (98.6 F).  Usually under-the-tongue temps register between 36.5 and 37.0.  Mine was high – 101.5F.  Anything over 38.0 is considered a medical emergency when you are on chemotherapy.  

When you start chemo, you are handed what is called a Fever Card.  It is a little business card sized brochure that states that you may be in a oncological emergency and that you are to be treated as a high risk patient.  It basically takes you to the head of the line in the Emergency Department.  It also puts one into a “decision tree” called “Febrile Neutropenia”, which basically means “fever while immune-suppressed”.  A decision tree is an established course of interventions that are all grouped together to ensure that nothing is missed. 

They start looking for an infection anywhere – chest xray, blood cultures, blood tests, throat swabs.  I was still feeling not too bad at this point, although my throat was still irritated.   After two hours of sitting in the lobby (so much for being a medical emergency…), they finally had blood results and took me into the back, giving me a stretcher to lay down on.  It was 11:30 by this time, WAY past my preferred bedtime of 10 pm.  A young Emerg doc came in, listened to my chest, consulted with the local oncologist on call, and returned to give me a prescription for three (THREE!!) different antibiotics.  Wow.  Especially since I was pretty sure we were dealing with a simple cold virus. 

I have always been smugly proud of my stellar immune system.  I never succumb to anything.  If a cold tries to get it’s claws into me, my immune system revs up, making me feel lousy for a day or so, then I wake up to it gone the next morning.  When those around me are falling for the full 10 day cold process, I’m done in about 2 days.  Oh, yes, I was feeling mighty superior – look what healthy living and good eating does for me…

Well, this is the first time that I have ever gone through a cold with a less-than-optimal immune system.  And let me tell you, it sucks.  I am running a constant low grade fever, about 37.4-37.6, less than the triggering values of 38.0, but enough to feel dragged out.  The almost constant coughing at times, the ongoing nasal drip and post-nasal drip irritation, the mouth-breathing… 

I understand the need for the broad spectrum antibiotic coverage.  It will do nothing at all for the viral cold, but prevents the possibility of a secondary bacterial infection, particularly pneumonia.  What it also does is to knock my gut microbiota for a loop.  As soon as I started the antibiotics, I also started using several bowls per day of Astro Balkan style yogurt.  It’s the plain (no sugar or flavouring), but I have added monkfruit sweetener and lime zest and lime juice to make a low carb approximation of hubby’s favourite yogurt flavour.  I have also purchased plain kefir and added monkfruit and pure vanilla extract to make it more tempting.  Neither of these products are part of my usual ketogenic diet but they are important additions right now.  I eat them away from the twice daily pills.  I’m also using a probiotic supplement (capsule), also away from the antibiotic dose.  So far, no diarrhea…

It’s been a humbling experience to crow about my fabulous record of perfect health, then get knocked down like this.  It sure makes me realize what a blessing an intact immune system is, and how I can’t wait to get back to having mine back. 

3 Comments

  • Winifred

    Here is hoping that you can buck that cold in short order. I use Astro Balkin all the time. In fact I strain it to the consistency of your cream. I use the whey in my baking bread.

  • Donna

    Thanks for your transparency. The truth is you’re doing so well and this is no walk in the park. You’re in the final stretch- so proud of you

  • Cillian

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