Bone Marrow Test Results: A Biology Lesson

Borage and Salvia in the herb garden

I didn’t mention that FL received a phone call on Friday, requesting his presence at the hospital on Monday morning for his bone marrow test results.
We knew that it must be serious because he already had an appointment  in the diary for next week.
But we weren’t expecting to hear that he now has acute leukemia.

A quick biology lesson:
In your bone marrow, you have stem cells.  These are the parents of 4 other types of cell:  red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma.
Myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells.
Leukemia is a cancer of the stem cells.
In acute leukemia, the cancerous stem cells mutate and multiply, crowding out the good guys.
Think “zombie apocalypse”.
The more bad guys there are,  the harder it is to zap them with chemo without killing the good guys too, and there might not be enough good guys left to carry on making the cells you need to stay alive:  red and white blood cells, platelets and plasma.

Back to our patient:

In FL’s case, myeloma, previous chemotherapy and (sorry darling!) old age have all conspired to leave him with, to quote the doctor: “a scruffy mess of cells”.
As a result, it is difficult to get a good enough bone marrow sample to assess the percentage of bad guys in his stem cells.  They had another try today.  Yes, another bone marrow test!
On Thursday, he is having a blood transfusion to give him a top-up of red blood cells.  If the bad guys keep multiplying, he will need transfusions at regular intervals, because otherwise his body will stop functioning.
Until they know what percentage and type of bad guys they are dealing with, they can’t consider any treatment.  And the doctor was very forthright:  there is no cure.
There are three things they can do:  watch it, give top-up transfusions as required, zap it with chemo.  But FL’s bone marrow is already shot to pieces.  Realistically, chemo would probably kill him faster than the leukemia itself. 
So we watch and we wait.
How long?
We didn’t ask the question.