Blood and bone marrow cancers and their treatments usually cause issues with your immune system. Depending on what phase you are in with your treatments, you can have anything from a weakened immune system to literally no immune system at all. So you have to be super vigilant about not getting infections because they can take off very quickly and before you know it you are in a ton of trouble.
And hospitals are notorious for being places where you can pick up all kinds of infections. The good news is that most oncology wards in hospitals are very careful about this and take all kinds of preventative steps to keep you safe.
But sometimes we can our own worst enemy. When I went to the Duke Cancer Institute sixteen years ago for an auto stem cell transplant (using my own stem cells), I never gave a second thought to the fact that I had an ingrown toenail. Stupid man that I was (am) I had it for a while and I just never bothered to go to the doctor to have it looked at and taken care of.
Well, when I was going through my transplant and they killed off my bone marrow – and my immune system along with it – we couldn’t figure out why I was getting really sick. I didn’t want to admit it at the time, but it was pretty serious. Only after a couple of days did I think to ask the doctor if my toenail might have anything to do with it. The look on his face told me that he would have smacked me, if he could have gotten away with it. Needless to say they took care of it and my infections cleared up.
But then for several days when the doctors and their interns were making their rounds, I had to listen to the doctor talk about what I had been through so that the interns would learn from my stupidity. Very embarrassing!