Seven years

This anniversary post is to recognise that I’m still here, in remission, seven years on from the day (4 February 2011) when I was first diagnosed.

In that time I have seen a number of friends die, from myeloma, leukaemia, amyloidosis, inflammatory breast cancer and related conditions or infections. And I’m still here, in remission.

I’ve met my stem cell donor, who’s a lovely and humble young woman, who says happily that she’d do it again in a heartbeat. That’s how easy it is! So if anyone reading this has any thoughts of signing up to a stem cel register, she and I would both like to encourage you to go ahead.

Anthony Nolan will register people aged 16-30, while DKMS will take people up to the age of 55. In both cases, you simply fill in a form and swab the inside of your cheek. It’s that simple! I know this because I volunteer giving talks in schools and colleges about it and signing up young people at recruitment events.

You stay on the register until you’re 60 and you could be a match at any time, or never get called. Those who do, in my experience, are delighted to be able to donate. I know this because I volunteer to visit donors on the day they donate at Sheffield Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

As a recipient, I can vouch for what a huge impact that little act can make to someone who might otherwise die. I’m still here and in remission.

And finally, some statistics that show the longer you survive, the longer you’re likely to survive. See charts below.

So while I don’t have a five year plan (I never did!), I can think about next year without being too anxious that I won’t be here. I could relapse, of course, but these days I feel generally calmer and more confident about being around to celebrate eight years post-diagnosis; to be able to say again that I’m still here and in remission.

This chart shows that the average life expectancy for someone in my situation has risen by three more years from this time last year. I’m potentially looking at a further 14 years. When I was first diagnosed, the outlook was pretty grim, around 3-5 years. So I’m already winning!

And this shows that the percentage of deaths at seven years post-diagnosis has dropped 1% from last year.

I’ve not done anything in particular to celebrate today, but I’ve been thinking about my experience; remembering those who’ve died; thanking those who supported me, emotionally, practically, medically and financially; posting this; and appreciating that I really am still here and in remission.