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The Power of Neutropenic Fevers


Maybe it’s the yearning for the long summer days to continue on forever. Or maybe it’s the anticipation of having a holly jolly holiday season in just a few months time. Whatever it is, there is something distinctly special about the last lingering days of this beautiful season. Friday night, for example, was a perfect night. It was the kind of warm night which begs you to go for a walk, a walk in which you will break the finest of sweats.

Alan and I walked around in our glowing skins, watching the sun sink in the sky, before we decided to get some dinner. At the restaurant, I ordered a glass of soybean milk and, as I sipped it, I noticed Alan’s eyes, specifically, the whites of his eyes which had somehow managed to turn nearly completely red. He didn’t seem too bothered by it though; what did bother him was the blistering cold of the restaurant. Sitting in my sleeveless shirt, I hadn’t noticed it was cold at all. As I marveled over the refreshing qualities of my iced beverage, Alan closed his menu and ordered a piping hot soup.

On the drive home, Alan turned up the heat to full blast. When we got home, he climbed into bed and pulled two comforters over him, then he huddled in a ball buried beneath them. I wiped away the sweat that had formed on my brow just from watching him broil in his homemade cocoon.
Alan was running a temperature of 102. The advice nurse he called said that was much too high, was way above 99.9, and that he needed to get himself to the emergency room as soon as possible. We hopped in the car and away we went, through the automatic double doors and into the room of people with pressing medical matters. And here is where I learned an important life lesson: the fastest way to be seen at the ER is to tell them that you are a cancer patient on chemo and that you’re running a 102 degree fever. This got Alan in fast, super fast, faster even than the tweaker guy who couldn’t stop scratching himself and who kept staring at his fingers like they might eat him.
Masks were donned, blood was drawn and pee was collected. Half a novel later, near 3 am, the doctors decided Alan could go home. All the lab results were in, and none showed signs of infection. We were advised that as long as no other symptoms cropped up and accompanied the fever, he should be fine. No one thought the blood shot eyes was anything to worry about either, so we went home, taking his temperature with us.

As we drifted off into sleep that night, I dreamt that I was floating down a cool river, basking in the intense orange warmth of the last days of summer. When I woke up, I realized the river I had felt was Alan’s sweat that had soaked the sheets through, and the sun that had been wrapped around me was actually his body lying next to mine, radiating such a brilliant heat that I wondered if I shouldn’t get up to put on some sunscreen.

Last modified: January 10, 2019