The Not-So-Gentle Answer: 4. Platelets

Lately, when people ask me “how are you?” I have to choose between being polite and being accurate. Most people get the polite answer “I’ve been better”. It turns out I may have been too gentle.

The bone marrow of your pelvis, ribs and sternum produce your blood, about 15ml per day, in adults.  (If you are younger than 18 months old, the long bones in your arms and legs also produce blood cells.)  The interesting thing is that the stem cells that give rise to the blood cells aren’t fixed in place, they “go on tour” from one site to another.  This is how my CLL arose from just one mutation in one cell, once, and yet now all of my bone marrow is involved in producing useless CLL cancer cells. Continue reading

The Not-So-Gentle Answer: 3. Neutropenia

Lately, when people ask me “how are you?” I have to choose between being polite and being accurate. Most people get the polite answer “I’ve been better”. It turns out I may have been too gentle.

CLL is a cancer of the white blood cells, specifically the B-cell lymphocytes.  There are many other kinds of white cells, and this blog looks at neutrophils, the most abundant type of white blood cells that form an essential part of the immune system. Continue reading

The Not-So-Gentle Answer: 2. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia

My last “how are you?” blog was well received, I thought I’d continue with another episode of not-so-gentle answers.

The disease I am being treated for is called Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia, a cancer of the B-cell white blood cells.  It is the most common type of leukaemia, usually diagnosed in patients over 50 (but not always), and usually in males (but not always).  Mine was found when I was 46 by the Red Cross Blood Service, but please don’t let that stop you donating. Continue reading

The Not-So-Gentle Answer

Lately, when people ask me “how are you?” I have to choose between being polite and being accurate. Most people get the polite answer “I’ve been better”. But if I give more information to those who persist, I’m still cushioning my listener: “well, I’m very tired today” or “my platelets are low and I’ve got fresh dots all over” or “when I stand up I get dizzy, my red cells are low today”. It turns out I may have been too gentle.

Stop reading here if you have a queasy feeling already, your intuition is correct.  What follows is the censored subtext to my vague replies…

Continue reading