Shrove Tuesday is known in this country as pancake day – In Italy and other European countries it is “mardi gras”, literally Fat Tuesday, and it marks the end of carnival time and the beginning of Lent. It has a strong family tradition – to celebrate the occasion children dress up in fancy costumes and a whole range of special cakes and sweets are prepared. For the “mardi gras extravaganza” we will combine Italian and British traditions to produce a range of tempting delicacies – there will be waffle making, pancake tossing and some delicious carnival treats. There will also be plenty of homemade jam and other cakes for sale.
This year “mardi gras” falls on the 4th March - this date holds for me a special significance. Exactly one year ago I was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukameia at the age of 57. The news came as a shock - I had always enjoyed very good health and never imagined I could develop a potentially life threatening disease. I had recently returned from a week skiing in Austria and only the day before my appointment I had walked 12 miles in the Yorkshire Dales. I really could not believe that I was severely anaemic and that my white blood cells and platelets count were almost 50 times the normal value. It took a while for the news to sink in– when I was asked to return to the hospital the following day for a bone marrow biopsy I said I couldn’t because I was too busy at work! It was only after reading all the clear information that I was given at the hospital that I realized what I was faced with. Fortunately in the last 15 years huge progress has been made that have revolutionized the treatment of CML. There are now several drugs available. I was on Nilotinib (Tasigna) for about 6 months but I failed to respond satisfactorily so I switched to Bosutinib that, so far, seems to be more effective. I am receiving excellent care from York and Leeds hospital and, thanks to these new drugs, I am leading a almost normal life with a fairly positive long term outlook.
Nonetheless, living with CML can be scary at times. I am a scientist and I found that reading everything I can lay my hands on and understanding the nature of CML, how it comes about and develops has helped me to come to terms with it.
I also understand that, if it wasn’t for the successful research in this field, my prospects would be quite bleak. I have therefore decided to become involved in fundraising and volunteering for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. I believe that scientific research is the key to find new treatments and potential cures for all forms of blood cancer and funding is essential to ensure that the work is of the highest standard.