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Sick Again - Immune System Question

TheLadySkye's picture
Posts: 195
Joined: Oct 2013

A couple weeks ago, I had a nasty cough that has since changed to pneumonia.  My oncologist tried to reassure me that we would treat accordingly, and that this wasn't wholly unexpected since my immune system is pretty impaired and roughed up following chemo (I finished FOLFOX at the end of April).

I don't deny her expertise.  I haven't felt awesome since.  But I AM curious.  My bloodwork has all returned to normal except for a slightly low hemoglobin (which is making its way back to normal).  Lymphocytes are fine, neutrophyls, white blood cells...everything they test for is fine.  So from a blood perspective, there is no indication that my immune system is impaired.  So...if the bloodwork is not showing a depression in one's immune system, how do they know that it's still rebuilding?  (My onc says it will take several more months for things to build to anything even resembling "normal")

Trubrit's picture
Posts: 5513
Joined: Jan 2013

I don't know about the blodd thing, but she is right about taking time to heal.

I am a just over a year out from chemo and then the chemo and radiation and I'm still not 100% (though I act like I am).  I have'nt had any problems with sickness, just other stuff. 

I do so hope that you recover quickly from this bout of pneumonia, that is not a good thing to have. 

Thinking of you.


ron50's picture
Posts: 1729
Joined: Nov 2001

    When I was going thru chemo I can remember all of my co- sufferers waiting each week for the results of their blood tests to see if they were ok to do chemo that week. My blood test results never varied from normal. My counts were always perfect. My oncologist always used to joke  about the blood of a 14 year old in the body of a 50 year old cancer sufferer. He had no answers either, Ron.

Nana b's picture
Nana b
Posts: 3045
Joined: May 2009

Healthy people can have normal blood tests and can still be stressed.  Stress and fatigue lower the immune system, and a blood test wouldn't necessarily pick that up. It just makes you more susuptible to colds, and other illness.   

It is a good 3 months to get to the point where I felt like me, but I still got really tired-- a lot quicker then normal. Unfortunately, normal is gone after chemo.  It takes awhile to get past the fog mind, aches and pains, and tiredness. 


Get well soon...

thxmiker's picture
Posts: 1282
Joined: Oct 2010

I felt that my immune system was weak for about 18 months after FOLFOX.  It will take a while for your body to be able to heal itself quickly.  We had to tell several friends that seem to always be sick not to visit, but a call is welcomed until I got strong again.  


Be careful, and you will do better.

Best Always,  mike

peterz54's picture
Posts: 345
Joined: Feb 2012

If you were on antibiotics for pneumonia it's likely much of your gut microbiota were killed off.  It's now recognized that a healthy gut microbiome is an important component of a healthy immune system.  It seems plausable that chemotherapy may also harm the gut microbiota to some degree, but that's just my speculation.  My understanding is that it can take quite a while (manay weeks) for the healthy bacteria to recover, during which time a person will not feel 100%.  I have no idea if this plays a role, minor or major or at all, in your case, but you could discuss with your internist or oncologist - they might shrug it off or give you the green light to add probiotic foods to your diet.

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