What is leukaemia? (Part 5)


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.

Leukaemia is essentially a cancer of the blood. There are many different types and sub-groups of which Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) is one. It's pretty serious but also the most common form of the disease in adults.

The majority of cells in the body are programmed to die at a certain point. In cancer this controlled cell death is overridden and the cells proliferate uncontrollably. And so it is with AML. At some point something went wrong in my marrow and cells began to divide without restraint.

In reality, the situation is much more complex but it was explained to me like this. Imagine the space inside a bone. If cells in the marrow are proliferating then this will affect the production of all the blood cells. In my case the cells were being 'squeezed out' of the marrow before they were ready. Effectively this meant they were useless.

I have included this very basic cartoon illustrating the maturation of the blood cells in the bone marrow. The rectangle gives an idea as to where the AML is occurring.


Regarding my symptoms, leukaemia explained why I was so pale because I had a lack of functioning red blood cells. This also meant I was exhausted as not enough oxygen was being carried around my body. In fact, my consultant said it was like walking around with three bags of blood missing.

It also explained why I was so susceptible to bacterial infections because my white blood cells were not protecting me as they should.

In one of my earlier blogs I described a deep pain in my right thigh that wasn't getting better. It has been suggested this could have been the cancerous cells increasing in number and pushing out onto the bone.

Inevitably the next question is what causes this cancer? The answer unfortunately is not clear. If you don't smoke, have not been exposed to benzene or were not in Hiroshima at the time of the bomb, then it's probably just bad luck. In the beginning it was something I would spend many hours thinking about.

Now I am resigned to the fact that we will never know what triggered it and in some ways I think this is easier to deal with. It means you can't look back at a particular time or situation with bitter regret.

The disease is indiscriminate affecting people of all ages and backgrounds. Around 110,000 people in the UK have a blood cancer and each year it will kill around 11,000.

People tend to think it's a disease that primarily affects children. This isn't the case. Approximately 500 are diagnosed in the UK each year, the bulk are older patients.

Treatment has improved massively since the 1960s and for AML patients between 75 and 80% will achieve remission after several cycles of chemotherapy. However, only around 35% of these patients will never be bothered by the disease again.

I believe the odds are much better for young children with the disease.


Hey AD, I back up totally what Dr Leighton said. I'm sorry that it has taken something like this to get in touch.

I'm really impressed by this blog mate - superb. It's both informative and touching. I tried explaining to Mark Pollock what a 'blog' was, but he is still convinced it's a style of La Coste trackie!! Anyways, he says a big hello from his travels.

I hope all is goin well for you mate and look forward to more blog postings!!

Laters. Dr Gazz xx

Hey shades!

Love the new installments - science is indeed now accessible to all with handy disgrams and noddy language for us non physiologists (also known as idiots.....)!

I cannot wait for the transplant explanation so will continue to watch this space.

You know I love you (and will love you even more when I have retrieved my ipod from your possession)

big hugs



I'm loving the blog, particularly the cartoon!

I'd just like to mention a helpline/website run by Cancer Research UK.

Cancer Help UK (www.cancerhelp.org.uk) is an online resource for patients/friends/reletives who wants to find out more about a range of different cancers and treatments. If you cannot find the answer to a specific question you have, you can also ask one of the fantastic Cancer Research UK information nurses by phone on 0207 061 8355 (9am to 5pm Monday to Friday) or online at cancerhelp.org.uk.

Hope to speak to you soon matey! Keep up the good work!




hi there my hubby n i read your story in the daily mail today whilst we were at our local cancer day centre. my hubby has aml he was diagnoised in january 2008 we are still in shock we have a little girl who is 4 we had our own buisness etc im sure you know. anyway stuart is 47 never smoked etc like you said just bad luck hes going for a bone marrow transplant soon at addenbrookes hopefully youll be in touch so you two can have a chat. how are feeling at the moment did they say they could cure you i havnt read all your diary yet just pleased stuart can get to talk to someone in the same boat thanks julie

Hi Adrian,
I Am interested in natural cures, and have read many books on this subject.You may be interested in a book I read on cancer, and how to cure it naturally through diet.It was written by a german called RUDOLPH BREUSS,and is called Rudolph Breuss the cancer cure, you can get it at any good book shop, but it must be ordered,takes a couple of days to arrive.You can get a brief outline of the book by typing in the name Rudolph Breuss.While you are on radiation and chemotherapy, you should be stocking up on certain vitamins and minerals, to counteract the damage these treatments are doing to your body. I hope this has helped you, god bless you.

Hi Adrian, I saw you this morning on the BBC I admire your strength! The last time I gave bone marrow was for my farther who like you had leukaemia. His was lymphatic and seeing you on the news bought memories of that time with him flooding back. He was diagnosed just after my birthday on the 25/01/85 he fought hard and we as a family had many up's and downs in his time in hospital. Unfortunatly he died on 24/04/85 at the age of 44. I was 18 years old and had many regrets of what we should of spoke about and I feel I should of listened more to my farther as he wanted to tell me many things but as soon as he mentioned "when he was gone "we the family would stop him and say your not going to die and get upset. So my farther would never finish what he wanted to say and my only regret is we did not let him talk. It was his birthday 0n the 18th May.
So thank you for reminding me about the need for bone marrow transplant as I do remember how important it was to my farther. He was lucky in the sense he had three children who could donate to help him and I know there are many other people who are not so fortunate.

I wish you the best of luck and thank you for the blog you are an inspiration to people and I know awareness will be the key to people giving bone marrow as it does not take long at all and a life can be saved if not prolonged by giving an hour of ones time.
I hope you and your family have a long future together

The best of Luck


adrian, you are a unique, brave, warm and funny young man and thank you for reaching out and sharing yourself, i for one feel honoured to know about your life. I pray for a miracle, you deserve one. God bless you and your family xx Lynda

Hi. This is really interesting post. Thank You! I have just subscribed to Your rss!

Best regards

Hi. This is really interesting post. Thank You! I have just subscribed to Your rss!

Best regards

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Adrian Sudbury published on April 10, 2007 1:00 PM.

Reaction (Part 4) was the previous entry in this blog.

Treating leukaemia (Part 6) is the next entry in this blog.

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