MJN
Posted by
MJN

LLR not LVG

MJN
Posted by
MJN
05 Oct 2014

A quality beef burger is, quite often, made from finely ground beef consisting of three cuts - chuck steak, rib eye and blade. The burger I got for lunch was, I strongly suspect, made from three different varieties of Bristol stool. Which three I do not know but I have my suspicions. As you can see from the photo it was pretty much 2 shades of beige which took me back to a few years ago when I had the privilege of looking after a young man with autism for a week. I learnt more about human empathy during those 7 days than in the rest of my adult life. An unswayable chap, he'd only eat monochrome foods which might sound simple but explaining to a French McDonald's manager that you want none of the Royale or the cheese on a Royale with cheese is a challenge for even the most cunning linguist. He'd have been delighted with lunch today. Me? Not so much.

Just after lunch I saw Louis van Gaal on the tele and was struck by this realisation - Louis is the man you get when Martin Sheen gets put through a mangle. Think about it - have you ever see Louis and Martin in the same room? Thought not. 

Enough whimsy for today. Lots of people have asked for an explanation of the stem cell transplant so I will give it a whirl. Apologies to any medical types who are offended by my simplifications but the science is pretty impenetrable to the lay person.

The reason I have Hodgkin Lymphoma is because at some point in the past a cell mutated in my lymphatic system and went on to cause a larger cancer as my body's own immune system did not recognise it as disease. In my case the disease was persistent and hard to treat, not responding fully to any of the usual therapies. This being the case the best way to gain a long term remission is to replace my ineffective immunity with someone else's - a stem cell transplant. 

As a transplant patient, the first thing that must happen is the removal of your existing bone marrow and immune system. This is a chemical process and happens when the medics combine 5 days of chemotherapy with a single dose of Total Body Irradiation (TBI) to destroy your body's immune response and make room in the major bones for new marrow.

After this process, known as priming, you're at Day Zero when the team will infuse the donor cells into your blood stream from where they will migrate into the marrow cavities. It's painless and the only oddity is the fact that the infusion reeks of sweet corn and causes a strong taste of tomato soup. Strange but true. 

From here everyone will monitor you like a hawk as the new system starts to graft (bed in) because at this stage you're at most risk from rejection when the new immune cells mistake your whole body for a disease. This response is muted by powerful immunosuppressive drugs. Gradually the drugs are reduced and hopefully the new immune system can exist harmoniously with the rest of your body and actually attack any cancerous cells to achieve remission in the long term.

There are bound to be complications with such a complex procedure, the most common of which Is called Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) caused when the foreign immune cells attack your own body. From skin rashes to irritated bowels the symptoms are varied and can mostly be controlled with steroids and other drugs but make no mistake, the risks are real. The best way to reduce the chances of GVHD is to get a closely matched donor and that's where everyone can help by signing up to the bone marrow register.

Donating stem cells is painless, does not involve any drilling or needles in bones and can genuinely save someone's life. It's truly awesome so have look at this website and that of the Anthony Nolan Trust for more information for information on how to do something incredible. I wish I had and I'm glad my donor did.

If you've recently been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma and have yet to receive treatment you could be eligible to take part in a new clincial trial. Read more here.

Comments

Anonymous
05.10.2014

You are an inspiration Nobby and a very brave man. Sending you all love x x

06.10.2014

Hi Mark,

Just wanted to say a huge thank you to you for posting this. Absolutely terrific blog and you explain the process of the stem cell transplant perfectly in a way that others can relate to and understand.

I had a transplant myself back in 2004 and 10 years on am really enjoying life and was extremely lucky not to have suffered from any GVHD. That phase when your neutropenic and waiting to produce white blood cells is a really anxious one and the months after are tough but you slowly build up your strength again.

I hope you're well and look forward to reading your next blog. Keep us updated!

Anonymous
06.10.2014

Love this post Mark and I'm thrilled to say you haven't lost your sense of humour. Your explanation of a stem cell transplant is the best I've read yet. Can't wait to read your next blog.