Winning the battle: Juliette's story
(NC) When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Juliette Inglis was a part-time teacher raising three teen-aged children in Edmonton. She led a full and active life, and chose an aggressive course of treatment to fight and beat her cancer. While she thought she was well prepared for the journey ahead, she was surprised to experience some of the lesser known side effects of treatment, particularly febrile neutropenia.
“I had a great healthcare team and had been made aware of the many side effects that I might experience,” said Juliette. “You receive a lot of information along the way. It's hard to keep it all top of mind, so it's important to ask questions, be sure you understand the possible impacts, and know what to do if you do experience symptoms.”
Many side effects are experienced by patients who undergo chemotherapy for breast cancer and other cancers. Visible side effects like nausea, vomiting and hair loss are those known to most patients and caregivers, but it is the less visible side effects that can be more serious. Knowing in advance what those side effects are, and how to prevent and manage them, is important.
In Juliette's case, a low white blood cell count accompanied with fever landed her in hospital for a week between her third and fourth treatment cycles. Known as febrile neutropenia (FN), it has the potential to impact a person's course of treatment, either by causing the need to reduce the chemotherapy dose, or delay treatment until the blood counts have returned closer to normal.
“While I knew it was important to watch out for symptoms like fever, I didn't necessarily associate chills with fever, and that was a wake-up call for me,” says Juliette. “It wasn't until my husband took my temperature that we realized something was wrong. I was treated in hospital and got back on track but that made me recognize the importance of reporting all symptoms and not just assuming it was part of the treatment process.”
Juliette has been cancer-free for nine years and is back to leading a very active lifestyle. In addition to constantly adding to her bucket list, she dedicates time to helping others going through cancer treatment, is an avid dragon boater, and is committed to raising funds and awareness for a variety of diseases through runs and bike.
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