Alan's Leukemia

My cancer, chronic myelogenous leukemia, is caused by a mutated chromosome, seen here:chromosome

The chromosome on the left is normal, its sister on the right is screwed up in a major way. The very visible mutation, if it occurs in a bone marrow cell, causes that cell to behave cancerous: it reproduces like a rabbit, squeezing out the healthy bone marrow, and making lots and lots of blood cells (when I was first diagnosed I had 40-fold too many blood cells!). Recently, so many cancer cells have multiplied that they have spilled out of my marrow and into my bloodstream. good bloodThis is called a blast crisis. And so my blood has stopped looking normal, like the bad, bad bloodcells on the left, and started looking abnormal, like these cells on the right:
smoothie
While traveling through the countryside in Sumatra (an island of Indonesia), I encountered a village shaman and told him about my leukemia. He prescribed for me papaya leaves boiled with onion. And so here I am, downing a green smoothie. I do not recommend this form of cancer treatment. Yechh!
This change looks harmless, but is in fact deadly. These cancer cells will, in a few months, become so numerous as to clog up my blood vessels and kill me. A pretty yucky way go, no?

Modern medicine knows of only one way to cure this bone marrow gone mad, and that way is to kill the bad marrow with total body irradiation and replace it with healthy bone marrow donated by another person. Fortunately, it is not difficult for you to donate your marrow to me, as your healthy bone marrow quickly grows back to replace that which you donate. Unfortunately, the donor must be tissue-compatible with me (that is, you must ‘match’ with me), otherwise the bone marrow donation will not work. So far I have not found anyone who matches with me. I have three months to find someone who does match. Therefore I want you to register with your local marrow donor program, so we can find out whether you and I match. Because I am ethnically Asian, then you are more likely to match with me if you, too, are ethnically Asian. And if we match, then you can save my life.

Other attempts to cure this kind of leukemia have largely failed. Eastern and alternative medicines have not been successful either (see picture of me above!).

By the way, for all you biomedical geeks out there, my HLA type is A2 / B48 / DR1101 / A26 / B35 / DR0406. It's the last one that's giving me so many problems. The DR0406 antigen is very rare, not found at all among Caucasians, and only found with some frequency among certain Asian populations. So, all you Asians out there: GET TYPED!

Finally, no discussion of my illness is complete without mentioning the superb medical team that diagnosed and is treating me. I may be an employee at UCSF, but I am even more a patient, and UCSF is one of the best medical centers on the planet. My hematologist/oncologist is Dr. Hope Rugo. She is compassionate as well as extremely competent and knowledgeable of the latest treatments. Our relationship is open and very frank, on occasion even argumentative, which is a good thing. She has been, by miles, the best doctor I have ever had. I cannot thank her enough. Here is a pic of her, in action:

The Real Doc is the one on the left.



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