The view from the summit
My Allograft 2018/19 – 17. 2nd March 2019
By Andy Burrows, 2 March 2019
So, the big news is that I’m home now, just this afternoon, Saturday.
Sorry if that’s a sudden announcement, but I don’t like to raise expectations too much in advance, otherwise it creates too many questions, like, “Are you home yet?”
And the truth is, because my bowels are still a little dodgy (sorry if this is too graphic – trust me, I’m sparing you quite a lot of detail!), I wasn’t really sure until it was confirmed this morning, even though they’d been talking about Friday or Saturday for a couple of days.
And I also had to wait seven hours from when the doctor told me that I could in fact go, the delay being the dispensing of my take home pills!
So, Jacob picked me up, and I finally made it home about 7pm.
And the welcome from both family and dogs when I walked through the door was amazing.
What do you do at the summit?
So, I’m at the summit of My Mount Everest climb.
What does one do at the summit of a long, arduous ascent?
You survey. You look down on what you’ve conquered, what you’ve risen above, the distance you’ve travelled. You notice how small things look way back where you were at various points along the journey. You bask in the glow of achievement.
This does feel like an achievement. I got through it, and I’m grinning with the sun on my face at the top of My Mount Everest.
And I look back over what I’ve been through. The shivers and fevers of Campath. The room moves because of my cold-that-never-felt-like-a-cold! The NJ tube. The vomiting. The Cyclosporine headaches. The times I lay in bed for hours, not feeling up to much.
And FIVE (out of the seven) Harry Potter books!
In a weird way, those five weeks don’t feel like a long time when I look back – I guess in the same way that, from the summit, the path you’ve trodden looks so small.
And yet that (and the aching body) only serves to fill your head with the magnitude of the achievement.
This has definitely been, and continues to be, by miles, tougher than any of the other three cancer battles.
But my determination is, for those who may tread (and dread) this path after me, to say, if can do it – an ordinary bloke from Basingstoke – (and smile), then so can you!
More than that, if I can do this – as an ordinary bloke from Basingstoke – (and smile), then any of you can overcome your mountains, whether bigger or smaller. You can! As Bob Marley wrote, “You never know how strong you are until strong is the only choice you have.”
And yet, alongside that, I also acknowledge the provision of that strength, and protection from complications, from God, through the prayers of many of you.
And I know that I’ve been buoyed by the support and love I (and the rest of my family) have received from so many people, many of whom we don’t know directly or closely.
I also can’t fail to acknowledge my donor, to whom I am deeply grateful.
I have to be careful here, because whilst I don’t know who the donor is, and I don’t have enough specific details to find out, that anonymity from each other is important. The stem cell transplant coordinators and registers agree that that anonymity should be carefully preserved for two years. After that, revealing identities is voluntary.
So, we are allowed to know basic details about each other. And we’re allowed to communicate (strictly with no identifying details) with each other via the transplant teams.
But what we’re not allowed to do is to share any details on the internet or social media.
So, if I don’t mention much about my donor, it’s not because I’m not grateful. It’s to respect that privacy requirement.
It’s an amazing kindness that someone would volunteer to spend 1-2 days having their blood skimmed, so that someone that they don’t know, and may never know, (potentially in a different country) with blood cancer can have another chance to extend their life.
Wouldn’t you like to be one of those amazing people? Below, as always, are links to ways you can get on one of the donor registers. The most popular ones in the UK are Anthony Nolan and DKMS.
Wouldn’t it be great if one of the positives of me sharing my story were to be 100+ new names on the donor registers. And maybe one day you can be called to make a lifesaving difference in someone’s life!
It’s very simple. Do it now!
As the sun goes down
Anyway, that’s enough misty-eyed reflection. I’m off to sit on the sofa with Heidi and the kids and watch a movie!
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Thanks for being interested in my journey. And always feel free to interact and let me know your thoughts.
What is a stem cell transplant?
If you want to get more insight into what a stem cell transplant is and how it works, the Anthony Nolan Trust has some really good information in its website. You can find that here: https://www.anthonynolan.org/patients-and-families/understanding-stem-cell-transplants
My 2015 transplant was an autologous stem cell transplant (a.k.a. an autograft). In 2019 I’m having an allogeneic VUD (voluntary unrelated donor) stem cell transplant (a.k.a. an allograft).
Becoming a stem cell donor
By the way, if you want to find out more about being a stem cell donor (please!), here are a few links (UK-based mainly):
(Stem cell and bone marrow donors are amazingly kind people who offer to sacrifice their time and endure some mild discomfort to help save the lives of people like me who have a type of blood cancer – lymphoma, myeloma or leukaemia.)