Christmas and getting ill (Part 8)


One of the hardest things to explain to friends and family is why the treatment of leukaemia requires so much time in hospital.

The reason is the chemotherapy is targeting the bone marrow, wiping out all the cells that shouldn't be there. Unfortunately this results in all the other cells the marrow makes being disrupted.

This means that no more platelets, or white and red blood cells, are produced. On the ward your blood is taken each day and the amounts of each of these cells are recorded. They are known as your counts and you quickly become obsessed with them.

Post-chemotherapy your counts come crashing down. This means regular transfusions of platelets and red blood cells are required.

Sadly your white blood cells cannot be replenished in the same way. The marrow makes a variety of different white blood cells but the ones we're concerned with are called neutrophils. When the counts hit zero it is known as neutropenia. This means your immune system has no bacteria fighting ability.

Counts can take between 10 and 20 days to recover so during this time you are extremely vulnerable to any infection and have to stay on the ward.

As Christmas time fell upon us, one of my best friends on the ward became seriously ill. He could barely move or speak for days and because he is such a character normally it was extremely upsetting to see, especially at that time of year.

On the ward you can develop strong bonds with your fellow patients. Often you have to alert the nurses with your emergency buzzer if for whatever reason they are unable to press it. You learn to keep an eye out for each other.

I contracted a mild infection a few days later but it was far less severe than his. As soon as you get a temperature the doctors begin treatment with antibiotics and thankfully these were sufficient to cure me. But I learnt it can be much worse. Some patients would have to have a catheter inserted and be taken 'upstairs' to the high dependency unit.

What was also scary was realising just how quickly people could go from being seemingly healthy and in just a few hours be completely knocked out.

Christmas was a sad time for me only made brighter by my family, friends and the nurses. I remember waking up on Christmas Day and two of the night staff had decorated special pillow cases and put our names on too. Inside were chocolates and a Satsuma- it was a fantastic gesture that really cheered me up!

As someone who loves Christmas and everything it stands for I found it a particularly difficult time in my treatment. I watched midnight mass from Liverpool Cathedral on my little television and admit I had a small lump in my throat.

In the nights that followed I often felt myself sinking into sadness. Night times were always the worst because I don't drop to sleep easily, leaving too much time to think.

If I'm being totally honest, I don't think death is something to be scared of, I see it very much as a natural part of life. Leukaemia is a strange condition because although there is much to be hopeful of, dying is always a possibility and although I'm not fearful of that, I do find the disease carries a lot of potential sadness that I am unable to shake off. Thinking about how devastated my family and girlfriend would be is very difficult.

For many nights, and still to this day, one image I can't get out of my head is watching a film of my own funeral. The sequence is always the same. The camera follows the coffin as it is brought into the church and then pans around to my parents who are inconsolable and both crying loudly.


Gripping and terrifying at the same time. Another great post AD. Keep smiling.


How interesting. Here's the pyschology bit. Imagining your own funeral is a sign that you have accepted that death is a possibility and that, in your own way, you are prepared to deal with it. What you can't do is dwell on it. We can't dictate what life holds for us, but what we can control is the way we deal with has been handed to us. With the support of family and friends, anything is possible. (How S Club 7!)

On a positive note, it was great to hear from you over Easter. I hope that you enjoyed several hours of Jeremy Kyle. I don't care what anyone says - he's a ledge. Compulsory half term viewing.

I think the photo was also a subtle, "Hey Guys, check out my chest..." Shameless. Although very nice.

Laminated card is on its way.

Lots of love,

Pinkers xxxx

Dear Adie,

I also envisioned your funeral in the early days of this adventure. However, in my fantasy, I appeared as a tragic yet serene heroine,facing the ordeal with grace, elegance and quiet dignity. Not wailing noisily with snot-slimed cuffs! I really must ask you to design my Virtual World avatar one day!!

As it is not going to be possible to reconcile our respective images, you will jolly well have to get better.

Lots of love



Hi Adrian,

Wasn't going to post another comment but felt I had to after reading your latest blog. Your clear and conscise explanation of your illness is so important for all those concerned with this horrible disease. What I find most useful is your honest and very brave comments about how you feel.

My two friends who are ill are finding it very difficult to express how they feel and I have pointed them in the direction of your blog, in the vain hope that it might help.

Even if they don't read it, I have and you have no idea how it has helped me to deal with this crap situation. Not knowing what to do or say is the hardest part. We just try to get on with life as "normal" but it's not always that easy. I'm sure your friends and family will understand that.

What I have learned from you, is that you can't change what has happened, you just have to learn how to adapt and live with the way life is now and appreciate the simple things(the choclate and orange at xmas!). As the Glaswegians say: "what's for ye, willnae go by ye". I think it means accept what life chucks at you and you have with courage and pride.

As always Adrian loads of respect and all the best wishes from me and my mates in Glasgow.


when that film starts playing, sneak out at the interval! =)

Hi, Dave just out of hospital and re-covering at home, Been asking the nurse's if anyone had heard from you, then we say your pic in the sheffield star. Hope you getting on ok. Oh and yes we heard you many a times beening sick and it always was at tea time ,but with the awful food no wonder. Say hi to poppy and your family for us, may see you on the ward one day,take Dave & Wendy xx

Hi Katie, thanks very much for posting those comments. I do have some bad days and that's helped more than you can imagine.

Dave and Wendy, it's lovely to hear from you both! Hope you are as well as can be expected. I will be in isolation from May 14, maybe I could see you through my window one day?

Hi Adrian

Just wanted to wish you the very best of luck with your treatment.

Your blog is great - well done.

You will be welcome back at the Parish Council meetings anytime!

Best of luck.

Terry and family

Hi,to you,Dave will be in for check ups around that time you are in,and will definately pull faces to you at your window, just to cheer you up. Andy is also due in at the same time for stem cell transplant so that will be fun. Hope to still get to the TT Races, but we are not sure yet. Chin up,often think about you. Take care. Dave & Wendy xxxxx

Hi Terry,

Thanks for your comment. Please pass on my regards to all at Denby Dale Parish Council.

Hope u and your family are well.

Nice site ;)

hiyya i am a student at tibshelf school where your dad is working i really hope you get better soon ...take care xxxxx love carrie

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Adrian Sudbury published on April 19, 2007 12:00 PM.

More bad news (Part 7) was the previous entry in this blog.

A blog for food lovers (Part 9) is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.