After a night of little sleep and a trip through the bowels of the hospital at 3.30am for a chest x-ray I’m to be introduced to the ‘joys’ of a bone marrow biopsy. This allows the doctors to determine exactly the type of leukaemia I have, and therefore plan my treatment.
Now for those who’ve not had this procedure, let me bust some myths – there is no drill; there is no general anaesthetic (just a wee local) and the whole procedure takes less than half an hour. It feels more odd than painful and afterwards it feels like you’ve been kicked in the ass by a horse! Note to self – next time I have this done ask for the left hip because I normally sleep on my right side and couldn’t sleep comfortably for more than a week as the bruising developed.
By early afternoon on the 17th September my consultant, Dr Johnson was ready to give me his diagnosis. A quick word on the doc – I clicked with him immediately and liked the ‘cut of his jib’. He is 100% honest, shoots from the hip and agreed with me from the minute we met that we’d work together to implement the plan to get me clear of leukaemia. He didn’t promise that I’d definitely be cured, but I believe he will help me have the very best chance possible.
So, my bone marrow and other blood results told the doc that I had Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). There are 4 types of leukaemia – which is cancer of the white blood cells – and I’ve got a rare one! Typical, I always want something unique. Around 2,500 people in the UK are diagnosed with AML each year and its more common in folk over 65. So I’m not a typical AML patient – but actually that’s a good thing – the younger and fitter you are the better you are able to cope with the big chemo regime which is round the corner.
As I tried to process all of this one thing kept elbowing its way to the front of my conciousness – this bloody cancer has the same initials as me! Unlikely I’m ever going to be able to forget its name then!
The doctor outlined his plan for my treatment – 10 days of chemo (more on that shortly) and up to a month in hospital. We planned for the chemo to destroy the leukaemia but in the process it would also wipe out my entire immune system – hence the need for solitary confinement to protect me from all bugs and nasties.
Chemo would start the next day because we’d no time to waste. So, off I trundled to meet my new pals in Ward 8 which was to become my home for the next 31 days.