April 2007 Archives

Pneumonia (Part 10)

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After my first bit of chemotherapy I developed a minor infection. Now I was about to experience just how ill someone with a very limited immune system can get.

Thankfully my second lot of chemotherapy went really well. The nurses gave me the same combination of anti-sickness and anti-inflammatory drugs that worked for me on the last day of my previous treatment. I wasn't sick once and was able to function as a normal human being throughout.

Then when my counts came crashing down I remained fine for well over a week. Things were going so well that boredom became the biggest battle. I would watch DVDs kindly donated by friends, and television in the day ward, but there are a lot of hours to kill in a day.

A blog for food lovers (Part 9)

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Because your blood counts take so long to recover, when they are finally restored leaving hospital is as exciting as busting out of jail - I imagine.

It seemed to take an age but at last I could be released for a couple of weeks to allow my marrow to regenerate further and for me to recover psychologically. Living on a ward and not being allowed to leave can drive you insane.

But the best bit is still to come and anyone who is on a diet should look away now.

I was given specific doctor's orders to eat as much unhealthy food as I could possibly manage. The point being to replace weight loss during the chemotherapy and to bulk up ahead of the second lot.

Christmas and getting ill (Part 8)

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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.

More bad news (Part 7)

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The chemotherapy seemed to be going well but then my doctors got a letter from the genetics laboratory.

Prior to treatment a sample of my bone marrow was taken from the back of my pelvis. If you lean forward and put your hands just above your waist, the slight bony lumps either side of the spine, is where they tend to take it from.

This is sent away for thorough genetic analysis. The bad news for me was the tests showed I had a second type of chronic leukaemia.

Treating leukaemia (Part 6)

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Hickman Line

The first weapon in the fight against Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) is chemotherapy. Patients are given a cocktail of chemicals that attack rapidly dividing cells.

But as well as killing off the cancerous cells it also affects other similar cells in the body - hence the undesirable side effects. Hair loss occurs because hair follicles are hit. Strong chemotherapy also wipes out cells that line the gut making it incredibly difficult to eat food and can cause severe diarrhoea. It also inadvertently affects the cells involved in reproduction.

One of the main advances in the treatment of leukaemia is the Hickman line which I am modelling here. It is inserted into a vein below the neck and the internal end sits just above the heart. The other end emerges with two little pipes and sits on the outside of your chest.

What is leukaemia? (Part 5)

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Despite my bone marrow being more dysfunctional than a group of ASBO kids who have recently guzzled ready meals aplenty, washed down with flagons of pop, I have to say I have a new found respect for this incredible tissue. Your marrow is responsible for producing the following cells of the blood:

â—? Red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body.
â—? Platelets which stop you from bleeding to death if cut.
â—? White blood cells which fight off bacterial infections.

In an adult, in order to sustain the necessary levels of blood cells, the marrow works at a phenomenal rate. It has to produce around 3 million red blood cells and 120,000 white blood cells - every second!

When this immaculate system is impaired serious problems occur.

Reaction (Part 4)

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Leukaemia is an emotive word.

Like cancer it is so emotionally charged that you hope its diagnosis is something you never have to tell your girlfriend or parents.

I think we were all braced for the news but that doesn't necessarily make it any easier.

It really upset my parents. One image that will always stay with me is seeing in my mum and dad's bedroom the kettle and tea pot, a clear sign of many sleepless nights worrying.

Diagnosis (Part 3)

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It might sound strange but in some ways I was relieved when it became clear leukaemia was responsible for my symptoms.

When I was ill I did the one thing I promised myself I would never do - use the internet to diagnose what was wrong.

I had entered all my symptoms and, according to the world wide web, I had ME. In some respects I found the prospect of this condition even more distressing.

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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