Treating leukaemia (Part 6)


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.

It's inserted under a local anaesthetic. I wouldn't say it's a particularly pleasant experience but it is totally painless. For the first couple of days it feels a little strange having these two tubes dangling in front of you but you quickly forget about it.

It's very useful because suddenly your daily blood test can be taken from the line, blood can be put in through it, as can antibiotics should you fall ill. Anything put into you goes directly to the heart and is distributed immediately throughout the blood system. The line, therefore, is also great for chemotherapy.

AML patients are normally given four or five cycles of chemotherapy. There are different combinations of the chemicals and the regimes can last between five and ten days.

Bags of the chemicals are placed on drip stands and then you are hooked up to it via your Hickman line. That's all it is. The bags I had lasted between half an hour and four hours.

To begin with I reacted very badly. I would be sick at regular intervals and, due to the fact I am quite loud when vomiting, my three friends in the room would cheer me on in support!

The second problem I experienced during the treatment was that it caused extreme fevers. Again, with spooky regularity, my temperature would begin to soar yet I would feel freezing on the inside. Imagine the coldest you have ever been and no matter how many layers of clothes you put on, or hats you wear, it would make no difference at all.

These phases lasted for around an hour and were horrible. I would be shivering uncontrollably then eventually my body would switch over and it felt like I was roasting. I would typically be sick in between the two stages and then rapidly have to rip off the many layers of clothes I had put on previously.

Interestingly, I learnt that good old, simple paracetamol, is fantastic at controlling these fevers.

As I progressed through my first lot of chemotherapy the nurses tinkered around with a combination of anti-sickness and anti-inflammatory drugs to combat these side-effects. By the last day they had finally cracked it and I felt much better.

The hope is that several different courses of chemotherapy will be enough to wipe out all the cancerous cells and achieve remission. If this isn't the case then a bone marrow transplant may be the only hope.

But just as the first load of chemotherapy was coming to an end I was to receive some more bad news.


I have CLL.

I'm curious to find out what the dual diagnosis actually is. It is mentioned on the intro to your blog, but I can't find an explanation anywhere else, just AML.

Will you explain in your next post?

Good Luck

Hi Andy,

I talk in detail about the second type of leukaemia in the next post. Basically it is a form of Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia, the doctors refer to it as a myelo-proliferative disorder.

I think it should be posted next Monday. If you would like any more info just drop me a line.

Hope things are going well with your CLL. Before last November I had no idea there were so many types of leukaemia, all with their own treatments and problems.

Best wishes,


Hey you - how about a cliff hanger! I am loving the blog mate. Even not very bright people like me can understand what's going on, which must be a tribute to your writing skills.

Hope to see you soon.



Hi Adrian

I'm not convinced the odds are better for children, I've been in remission from AML for four and a half years now, I'm now 44

The Hickman line looks all too familiar!!!

Stay positive and well, you can get through this believe me!

Take Care


I look forward to reading the next post.

It occurred to me that as you drove yourself into hospital in the first place, you may have left your car in the car park. Watch out. The rotten devils could be still charging you if you haven't moved it yet.

I also wondered if your NHS trust have those awfully expensive telephones from Patientline, where I noticed the other day they have increased the call charges for patients by 160%. Next time I am in hospital, I'm going to use my mobile, following the recent government report saying that there is no logical reason for a ban on them in hospitals.

I used to live in Longwood, Huddersfield, and read the Examiner regularly.

Thanks Judith- on the ward if someone makes a good recovery then you don't see them again! It's good to hear the good news too.

Andy, I couldn't agree with you more. The whole Patientline issue is awful for anyone who has to spend a long time in hospital. I wrote to my MP and, while she was sympathetic, she explained it was basically another PFI scheme that had gone bad.

I too will be using my mobile phone in the future. It cost my parents nearly ��200 to keep in touch with me during those early months.



As a friend of Adrian's grandmother I'm quite old and I don't know what URL is - in fact I'm quite new to this computer lark. When Bar rang me to bring me up to date with Adrian's treatment I was busy dealing with the hairs on my legs with a gadget that pulls them out - ouch. What a funny thing hair is - some places we want it and other places we don't. However, with or without hair Adrian looks good and as I have never actually met him it has been really nice to see his picture and read his "blogs"? All the very best, Adrian, with your forthcoming treatment. You have a great Granny.


Hi Adrian

Using my sons e mail address to wish you all the best for the bone marrow transplant. Don't forget there's things that come from Germany that reach parts that other things do not.

I am one of the 'lucky' cancer suffers. Had breast and lmymphatic cancer but didn't have chemo just radiotherapy. That was 20 months ago. Went back to work after 5 months with a full head of hair!

Think positive thoughts as you came across as the type of person that wouldn't let anything stand in your way when Gordon was in the Hallamshire at the same time as you.

Take care,


AD, prior to the photo you should have pinned on a chest wig, shaved a lightning bolt into and donned an eye patch - and hey presto!



Well done, this site is really great. Just wanted to say hello, keep up the good work!



I want to say - thank you for this!

Dear Adrian and Poppy

Congratulations on your engagement - definitely the right thing to do. Your blog is amazing - whether that is the right adjective not really sure but keep it going. Anyway heres to a Happy and Healthy New Year to you and yours. Lots of love from great great cousin Anne (even greater) Grandma Barbaras cousin xxxx

Greetings and salutations Adrian

I had just recovered from Colonic Cancer late 2007
when the doctors discovered that I now have Cancer
of the peritoneum. I had PICC line last year, this time the nurse could'nt re-insert the picc line again so on wednesday 23 January 2008 I am having a Hickman line inserted. I was a wee bit worried when it was explained what it involved, but after reading your blog, I feel much better about it. Thanks for the reassurances. How is your treatment coming along?

Best wishes

Bob Affleck

Your are Great. And so is your site! Awesome content. Good job guys! xanax

I am very sorry about your diagnosis i am currently a student and i am doing a project on AML i used a little bit of your VERY in detail information on chemotherapy. i just wanted you to know that with treatment in younger patients tend to do allot better than those who have developed the disease at an older age.its only due to one reason and thats because younger patients can under-go stronger treatments of chemo.i hope you find that information useful and just keep your head up. i love to see your enthusiasm in all of this and seeing that just makes me have more faith in god

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Adrian Sudbury published on April 12, 2007 1:00 PM.

What is leukaemia? (Part 5) was the previous entry in this blog.

More bad news (Part 7) is the next entry in this blog.

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