Fundamental Unit of Concern

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a Damn.” – Rhett Butler, Gone With The Wind

One thing I learnt while on chemotherapy in 2010 is that everyone has a finite number of Damns to give. When you are fit and well and healthy you have a huge supply, sometimes it even looks infinite. But when we are unwell, the supply of Damns is smaller, and events and activities have to be important to you if you are to give them a Damn at those times. When you are seriously ill, ill enough to need chemotherapy, the supply of Damns is very limited indeed. Continue reading

The Not-So-Gentle Answer: 6. Infections

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.

One of the effects of my CLL is that my bone marrow now produces almost no neutrophils.  There are still some being made, but far too few, and they get “used up” as fast as they are made. Continue reading

The Not-So-Gentle Answer: 5. Commensals

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.

Commensal, n.,  An organism participating in a symbiotic relationship in which one species derives some benefit while the other is unaffected.

The human body is full of, and covered in, commensal bacteria, viruses and fungi.  Our gut flora, which digests our food for us, is one example. Continue reading

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

Boring is Good

Next time you have to wait 3 months to see a specialist, you have to remember that means your condition, medically, is not acute, not severe, not interesting, and just boring.  Increasingly, there are times when I’m not medically boring. 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