BIG needles, blood, chemicals, UV light and Rotherham – it’s all part of reporter Adrian Sudbury’s latest instalment in his leukaemia struggle.
Despite being given two all clears against the disease in September Examiner journalist Adrian now faces a complication which could be just as life-threatening.
He has developed a condition called chronic Graft versus Host Disease (cGvHD).
Although his bone marrow transplant was a success his new white blood cells – which should be fighting off infection – have started to attack his skin.
If left alone it could spread to other organs like his lungs and liver, causing death.
The first stage of treatment involves steroid drugs.
He has responded well to these but unfortunately this means he is massively at risk from infection.
One of the main reason patients with cGvHD die is because they pick up a nasty bug.
However, he has been offered a 50% chance of a long-term cure from this condition by a special department at Rotherham General Hospital.
The centre – one of only three in the country – offers a treatment called Extracorporeal Photophoresis.
Adrian said: “This treatment sounds absolutely insane and lots of people think I’m going mad when I try and explain to them how it works. Someone said they thought the doctors were playing a prank!
“The idea is that I go over to Rotherham for two consecutive days every other week. I have a big needle put into my arm and the machine takes out about 400mls of my blood.
“This blood is then separated and the white blood cells are collected.
“They are then mixed with a special chemical that makes the white cells sensitive to light. Once this happens they are passed over what looks an S-bend on top of a sun-bed.
“The UV light is switched on which ultimately causes the white blood cells to die.
“These damaged cells are then returned to my body, along with the red blood cells, and the idea is that it helps ‘train’ my immune system to be more accepting and to stop attacking my skin.
“It’s a very complicated procedure so I have tried to explain it further in the blog I have been keeping for the Examiner’s website. It’s an incredible procedure and one which I certainly had never heard of before.”
Despite being increasingly offered to more transplant patients who develop cGvHD the precise mechanism for how this treatment works remains unclear.
The idea is that after several sessions doctors will be able to reduce steroid treatment and get Adrian back to full fitness.
“Steroids are not a good long-term solution to this problem,” Adrian added. “Despite giving me a massive face and barrel-like chest in the end they can cause osteoporosis and psychological disorders – not to mention the infection dangers.
“However, on the bright side, they have given me much more strength and made me feel lots better in myself. So I want to try and make the most of things while I can.
“I’m hoping to do a bit more work from home for the Examiner in the coming weeks, increase my exercise and generally be more useful.”
As for the future he said: “It’s been a pretty difficult year and this new problem is a huge blow. I am apprehensive about whether this treatment will work.”
Read more on Baldy’s Blog at www.examiner.co.uk