The ABC Cancer Diaries

A young, American-Born-Chinese woman living with metastatic breast cancer

Yellow Fever, or a Case of Jaundice January 29, 2010

Filed under: Side Effects — wenren @ 4:36 pm

It’s been a long time since I last posted. Well, a lot has happened since the new year. First, we had a baby! Well, I didn’t actually have the baby, but we used a surrogate. I may be the only stage IV person with advanced breast cancer to have a baby after becoming diagnosed with stage IV cancer. (People who determine who are fit to become parents via adoption — domestic or international do not find someone like me a fit parent given the terminal nature of my illness. Sad, but true. Even though I am married, my husband is considered irrelevant in these situations.) I guess I should call Oprah? Maybe I am not the only stage IV woman with breast cancer, but it is very, very rare. In any case, our lovely daughter is a joy and the long journey was definitely worth it!

But this post isn’t about new parenthood. This post is about what happened to me after my new chemo treatment. In short, I got really, really jaundiced (and was dealing with this while we awaited the birth of our daughter and afterwards), and landed in the hospital. Initially we weren’t sure if the jaundice was due to liver failure or due to the chemo. It was a pretty scary time, and at this point made sure that my doctor had a copy of my health proxy (which explains my wishes should I become unable to make my own medical decisions.) Luckily, everything eventually resolved on its own. However, prior to all of this, I was in the hospital because we thought I would have to have a procedure to unblocked my bile ducts. My bilirubin levels were very high, but slowly it started to go down on its own.

So, other than looking really yellow and sickly, what are the other symptoms of jaundice? Well, your urine turns really dark like the color of tea and your stools are the color of clay. This may be too much information, but I guess now I know what the telltale signs are. I also had no appetite whatsoever. And to all of you who know me, you know that this is very unusual. I mean I LOVE to eat! This is perhaps one of the scarier symptoms because I noticeably lost weight because I would literally eat three bites at mealtimes. And overall I felt very tired and low energy. At the time, I kept thinking that these were side effects of the chemo, not realizing that my liver was functioning properly.

In the end I am grateful that I did not have to undergo a procedure, which would have had some risks of complications and infection. And I am grateful to have so many friends who visited me in the hospital. And grateful that the hospital food was so tasty (I mean what hospital has braised beef short ribs in roasted vegetable ragout??!) And of course, grateful for my loving husband and wonderful daughter. So, it was a close call, but so far I am feeling fine and certainly do more than my share of making up those lost pounds!!