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What happens now?

Posted by
31 Oct 2014

You know when something starts to roll and then becomes a giant bolder? The Catch22 has started to become a bit of a behemoth. I’ve received 50 already in all forms of media from email to massive WhatsApp messages and every one is a belter. I’ve been amazed by the depth of thought that people have put into it and if your one of the many who’ve given their reasons for choosing just 22, then thank you. It’s been, moving, tear jerking and merry making to read and on at least 100 occasions I’ve thought, “Why is that not in my 22?”…. I’ve already swapped Baby D for Candi Staton, just don’t tell the missus!

I’ve discovered new music, rediscovered old favourites and it’s costing me a fortune in new downloads. Keep ‘em coming, keep me smiling. Thanks.

Today’s day +8 blog is a simple task that’s incredibly complicated – explaining what happens next inside my body because I know lots of people are fascinated by the process, so here’s my best effort.
Last week millions of new stem cells were put into my blood – it was a really high donation which is obviously great. In the time since they will have migrated into the space in my bone marrow cavities that were emptied by the chemo and radiotherapy. The pattern inside the bones is almost like a honeycomb and the spaces are called microenvironments where the cells engraft.

Each of the cells is destined to become one of 3 things: A red blood cell, a platelet or a white blood cell.
Red cells have the important job of taking oxygen around the body using haemoglobin. At the moment my haemoglobin is very low – about 60% of normal – which is one reason why I’m very tired.

Platelets form a bulk in the blood and are important for clotting when there is a bleed or cut in the skin. To put things simply, when a blood vessel is broken the body uses a substance called fibrin to make a fibrous net over the hole and the platelets block the gaps. That’s a scab or a bruise and why yesterday I had an infusion of platelets as mine were very low – bleeding is a bad thing!

The white cells take many forms and they are your body’s immune system. For me the important ones are called neutrophils as these attack any infections in the body. At the moment I have very few of these – so few that the machines can barely find any in my daily blood tests – which is why my room is controlled and I’m having very few visitors for fear of getting a bug which could be very dangerous as my immune response would be pitiful.

To improve from this situation, the hope is that lots of new neutrophils are being manufactured in my marrow. By dividing over and over again, a reserve of stem cells is built up until hormones (remember the cytokine showers?) tell the cells to become white blood neutrophils and are released in the body. At present I have 0.01 neutrophils and will be allowed out of hospital when the count reaches around 1. Normally, you’d have a count between  2 and 4 so it’s a long way to go.

As simple as this sounds, the next stage is really important because you have to remember that I have been given a foreign immune system which could potentially see my body as one giant disease and attack it. The medical team manage this using immunosuppressant drugs to “declaw” the new cells and my old ones so that they don’t come into conflict and slowly allow the new system to develop. It is a risky procedure with a chance of autoimmune rejection allowing the new system to attack my body but with such a well matched donor, there’s less chance of this happening.

As you can understand, this is a time of both nerves and excitement but by day 10 we hope to start seeing new neutrophils appearing in my blood. There will probably be reactions in the form of rashes and stomach problems because of Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) which is a minor form of rejection by the new cells but again, we hope this is minimal. All along the way I will be monitored incredibly closely with a raft of blood tests and observations made every day – I could not be in better hands.

The record for getting out of here is 17 days post transplant which would be awesome and help to keep me sane but I’ll settle for anything as long as it works.

Returning for a last word on the Catch22, I discovered this silly poem / rant, not my finest effort, in a notebook from 12 months ago…

Lost in translation
In 1992, short-lived Eurodance
Germans “Snap” released their
One and only hit…..
“Rhythm is a Dancer”.
During the song, rapper TURBO-B
States the he is,
“Serious as cancer when I tell you
That rhythm is a dancer!”
Irrespective of the language barrier,
This makes him a dick.

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.



Hi buddy,
I hope you're doing ok? I'm sending you my Catch 22 but this really got me thinking! Here goes:

Green Door - Shakin Stevens - Fond childhood memories (I used to pray he would stop having birthdays so I could catch up with him and marry him!)
Saturday Night - Whigfield - Memories of first girlie holiday abroad.
Return of the Mack - Mark Morrison - Uni friends used to sing this to me!
Purple Rain - Prince - Great song
Friday I'm In Love - The Cure - I'd met my husband to be
Your Wedding Day - Jimmy Buckley - My dance with my Dad - enough said!
I Do - Westlife - My first dance as Mrs Rodgers
Rule the World- Take That- little John was born to this song
Precious Child - Karen Taylor Good- Thoughts of my little angel Micheal
Sunshine- Elizabeth Mitchell- More thoughts about Micheal
No One Needs to Know - Shania Twain - love a bit of country
Dolly Parton - 9 to 5 - love it! Love it! Love it!
Party Rock Anthem - LMFAO - little John loves dancing to this
Pharell Williams - Happy - both my boys love this song
If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time - R Kelly - thoughts of my cousin John after his accident.
Saturday Night At the Movies- The Drifters - Mum used to always sing this to us!!!!!
Micheal Jackson - Billie Jean - Many dances to this with my brother and sister- great!
Kinks - You Really Got Me - My exercise song!
John Legend- All of Me - I would sing this to my John if I could sing in tune!
The Pogues - Fairytale of New York- Memories of a great concert with John
Bruno Mars - Count on Me - A great song about friends- there are days we need them!!!!!
Meghan Trainor - All About That Base - I can't help but dance to this!

You take care x


Thoughts and prayers with you Nobby.


Another brilliant blog Mark! 

You explain the process perfectly and I think we'll have to get you on board for our Patient Info team who are currenlty re-writing and improving the Patient Information.

I've got everything crossed that your counts pick up soon and will be adding my Catch22 list to your extensive collection at some point later today so watch this space!


Hi Mark
Really helpful blog - thank you. Written with consideration for those of us who are baffled and inspired in equal measure that science has brought us to this amazing place of hope and life - but not dumbed down somuch that I feel like I'm back at school! Lots of us were praying for you over the weekend ... hoping the numbers are doing what they should be doing and you are still managing to keep positive. And I agree about that line in Rhythm is a dancer! I was a mere teenager at the time but still thought it ridiculous then!


Hello Mark.

Helen has just shown me how to access this. I am total technophobe and really only use this iPad for shopping on line. [Don't tell Tom!]

I have read your brilliant explanation of the arduous treatment you are under going and my heart goes out to you. We all know somebody who has/is undergoing treatment for the many different cancers, but in truth, very few people actually know what the treatment entails. I can now appreciate how difficult these next few days are, both for yourself , and for Ali. BothTom and I have you in our thoughts and prayers.
We are going to the Bollywood Ball on Saturday and are really looking forward to it. Toms' Asian outfit arrived yesterday and 1 of the Asian girls at work has loaned me 1. I'm telling you, Mark, we wouldn't look out of place in a corner shop here in Bradford!
I will go now. Continue to be the strong person that you are, and as I said, we have you in our hearts and prayers.
Fondest love, Tom and Marge.


Sending you our love and prayers x