Immune Response While on Chemo

Posted by ttibsen @ttibsen, Apr 28 9:46am

My daughter is on chemo for cancer. The chemo has resulted in blood counts that are below the normal ranges for white, red blood cells and platelets. She called us yesterday to let us know that she has received the first dose of the Pfizer Covid vaccine with the blessing of her oncologist. I have complete faith in her oncologist of course but I am curious as to the benefits of vaccination for someone in her situation as she has virtually no white blood cells with which to mount an immune response. Is this a case of something being better than nothing and will her immunity – after the second shot – be comparable to that of a person with normal blood counts?

@ttibsen First, let me say how sorry I am to learn your daughter is undergoing chemo for cancer. No parent wants to ever hear the dreaded C-word in connection with their child, no matter how old they are! How are you coping with this?
Being a cancer survivor has given me an entirely new perspective however. The huge medical developments over the past few years have provided much needed hope for positive outcomes.

As you’ve found out, drops in red/white blood cells and platelets are expected. Right now, because of her low resistance, she has to be super cautious to avoid any illnesses. At this point not much is known about the effectiveness on the Covid vaccine on immunocompromised patients. It is indeed a matter of ‘something being better than nothing’ But even if it is just a tiny response, it can be valuable in ramping up her immune system should she be exposed.

A suggestion would be for her to have a Spike protein antibody test run 30 days after her 2nd vaccination to see if she’s had any immune response. I’m sure she’s tired of all the blood tests but this can be done in conjunction with her other routine blood draws. Mention it to her oncologist and he can tag that onto her orders. At least it would give some indication if there’s been a response. And that still isn’t the definitive answer. There are other factors which can affect the reaction from our immune system.

May I ask what type of cancer your daughter has? Is she doing well and responding to her treatments?
Please let her know there is hope on the other side of all this! Bodies are remarkably resilient Staying strong and positive are so important. It’s that spirit of endurance which propels us forward. Lori

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@ttibsen As a mom to three daughters, I can imagine the heartache that comes learning, as you did, that one developed this cancer. Now to balance supporting her and caring for yourself. Because there are various ways it can present at diagnosis would you mind telling a few more details of what her particular cancer looks like? Has surgery been part of her early treatment? Peace, Nancy

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@1nan

@ttibsen As a mom to three daughters, I can imagine the heartache that comes learning, as you did, that one developed this cancer. Now to balance supporting her and caring for yourself. Because there are various ways it can present at diagnosis would you mind telling a few more details of what her particular cancer looks like? Has surgery been part of her early treatment? Peace, Nancy

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Lori and Nancy
Thanks for you kind responses to my query. It's been very helpful to get your input and I have already marked in my calendar, the date when she should ask for the Spike antibody test. She gets blood draws all the time and yes Lori, you are right – she is tired of all the blood draws since it's become increasingly difficult for the techs to find and then get inside the veins for the draws – the veins are that scarred now – so the draws have become a bit of an ordeal.
Sarah, our only child, is 41 – a mother of 2 kids aged 4 and 9 – and this July will mark 4 years that she has been living with glioblastoma for which the initial treatment was surgery, chemo and radiation. She's had 2 recurrences, with surgeries for each recurrence, and I don't like to investigate the possibilities too closely for fear of what I may find, but I don't think that there will be another surgery for the next recurrence.
So we are coping as well as could be expected, since 4 years is a long time to acclimatize to almost anything but there's no question that we have been living under a dark cloud for all this time.
We live in Canada and Sarah lives in San Francisco which is fortunate since not only does she get superb, first-class medical care there through UCSF, but she gets to live at home during all phases of her treatment, which wouldn't be the case if she were still with us in small town northern Canada.
I don't want to end my thread on a gloomy note so I should tell you that with all three surgeries, she has bounced back in an incredibly short amount of time and we never noticed any major side effects from the surgery. If you were to meet her, you would never guess that she's afflicted with glioblastoma so we're very thankful for that.
The most obvious sign of her illness is the side effect of the chemo – at this stage she can't make it through the day without a 4 hour afternoon nap but aside from that – when she's up – she's bright, alert and functions normally – in fact, she's undertaken major house renovations which I didn't think was such a great idea but of course she's free to do what she wants and it's probably good for her mental well being.
So there you have it – a brief story of parents with a child who has cancer and while undeniably tragic, there are a lot of things to be thankful for in our journey. – John

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@ttibsen

Lori and Nancy
Thanks for you kind responses to my query. It's been very helpful to get your input and I have already marked in my calendar, the date when she should ask for the Spike antibody test. She gets blood draws all the time and yes Lori, you are right – she is tired of all the blood draws since it's become increasingly difficult for the techs to find and then get inside the veins for the draws – the veins are that scarred now – so the draws have become a bit of an ordeal.
Sarah, our only child, is 41 – a mother of 2 kids aged 4 and 9 – and this July will mark 4 years that she has been living with glioblastoma for which the initial treatment was surgery, chemo and radiation. She's had 2 recurrences, with surgeries for each recurrence, and I don't like to investigate the possibilities too closely for fear of what I may find, but I don't think that there will be another surgery for the next recurrence.
So we are coping as well as could be expected, since 4 years is a long time to acclimatize to almost anything but there's no question that we have been living under a dark cloud for all this time.
We live in Canada and Sarah lives in San Francisco which is fortunate since not only does she get superb, first-class medical care there through UCSF, but she gets to live at home during all phases of her treatment, which wouldn't be the case if she were still with us in small town northern Canada.
I don't want to end my thread on a gloomy note so I should tell you that with all three surgeries, she has bounced back in an incredibly short amount of time and we never noticed any major side effects from the surgery. If you were to meet her, you would never guess that she's afflicted with glioblastoma so we're very thankful for that.
The most obvious sign of her illness is the side effect of the chemo – at this stage she can't make it through the day without a 4 hour afternoon nap but aside from that – when she's up – she's bright, alert and functions normally – in fact, she's undertaken major house renovations which I didn't think was such a great idea but of course she's free to do what she wants and it's probably good for her mental well being.
So there you have it – a brief story of parents with a child who has cancer and while undeniably tragic, there are a lot of things to be thankful for in our journey. – John

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John, thank you for so eloquently sharing your story and your daughter’s story of her glioblastoma journey. As a parent, I can certainly appreciate that dark cloud hovering over your heads throughout her experience. But wow, you are all handling this with such grace and positivity…keys to survival and coping well. Truly inspirational.

I love Sarah’s indomitable spirit. It’s important for her to keep pushing forward. I can understand your reticence with her taking on major house renovations, but it serves as a much needed distraction for her. Also it provides a sense of normalcy and hope for the future. She sounds like an amazing young woman…taking after her parents, no doubt. ☺️

Are you and your wife able to travel to visit with Sarah and her family?

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@loribmt

John, thank you for so eloquently sharing your story and your daughter’s story of her glioblastoma journey. As a parent, I can certainly appreciate that dark cloud hovering over your heads throughout her experience. But wow, you are all handling this with such grace and positivity…keys to survival and coping well. Truly inspirational.

I love Sarah’s indomitable spirit. It’s important for her to keep pushing forward. I can understand your reticence with her taking on major house renovations, but it serves as a much needed distraction for her. Also it provides a sense of normalcy and hope for the future. She sounds like an amazing young woman…taking after her parents, no doubt. ☺️

Are you and your wife able to travel to visit with Sarah and her family?

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Yes, her outlook on life never ceases to amaze us as well. It's so easy to give up altogether with a cancer like hers and slip into a state of despondency and hopelessness but we haven't had a touch of that with Sarah thank goodness.
International travel is strongly discouraged by the Canadian government, but even so, when Sarah had her last recurrence in October that necessitated her third surgery, we did fly down to help out. The only slight drawback to our visit at that time was having to isolate in our home for 2 weeks on our return to Canada. Since then, the governments on both sides of the border have imposed much more stringent restrictions on visitors but of course, if we had to, we would fly down in a heartbeat anyway. But a discretionary visit is not in the cards for the moment.
We live our lives in 2 month segments now. Those are the intervals at which Sarah gets MRI imagings to check for recurrences of the glioblastoma. You can imagine how we feel on those days – waiting for the results of the scan. But as I said previously, July will mark her 4 years of having lived with this which is much better than the average, so we just have to hope that things will continue with these good results.

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@ttibsen

Yes, her outlook on life never ceases to amaze us as well. It's so easy to give up altogether with a cancer like hers and slip into a state of despondency and hopelessness but we haven't had a touch of that with Sarah thank goodness.
International travel is strongly discouraged by the Canadian government, but even so, when Sarah had her last recurrence in October that necessitated her third surgery, we did fly down to help out. The only slight drawback to our visit at that time was having to isolate in our home for 2 weeks on our return to Canada. Since then, the governments on both sides of the border have imposed much more stringent restrictions on visitors but of course, if we had to, we would fly down in a heartbeat anyway. But a discretionary visit is not in the cards for the moment.
We live our lives in 2 month segments now. Those are the intervals at which Sarah gets MRI imagings to check for recurrences of the glioblastoma. You can imagine how we feel on those days – waiting for the results of the scan. But as I said previously, July will mark her 4 years of having lived with this which is much better than the average, so we just have to hope that things will continue with these good results.

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Hi John,
Just a quick note to let you know that we also have a Brain Tumor group if you (or Sarah) would like to connect with other patients and caregivers talking about glioblastomas. See the support group here:
– Brain Tumor https://connect.mayoclinic.org/group/brain-tumor-support-group/

While the border crossings are restricted with good reason, yours is a situation where I wish they could be relaxed. The vaccines give hope that the borders will be open in the near future. Let's hope.

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Thanks Colleen,
I will certainly take advantage of the link that you sent me. My wife and I have been double vaccinated for the past 2 months already so surely the benefits of vaccination will come along soon in the form of easier travel.

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