In May 2004 Andy began the first stage of the treatment.
“First they clean out your kidneys, then they kill off all your existing bone marrow using chemotherapy,” Andy explains.
The side effects are not pleasant. “The chemo can’t distinguish one fast growing cell from another so it also attacks your hair, gums, and muscle tissue.”
The week of intensive chemotherapy was followed by two more days of radiotherapy. With the second phase of the transplant looming, Andy was worried not only about his future but his mother’s condition.
“I knew that once it started, I wouldn’t be allowed out of the hospital until I was producing new, normal white blood cells. Mum was really going downhill and I was really worried I might not be with her when the end came. On the other hand, I needed to get well.”
The transplant was a success and, much to the amazement of his doctors, Andy started to produce white blood cells within a week. He was home a month after the transplant and was able to spend a few days with his mother before she sadly died.
While the bone marrow transplant was successful, Andy was left exhausted and weak from the procedure. He continued to visit the hospital two or three times a week for anti-rejection drugs and follow-ups.
He was also vulnerable to common infections such as chicken pox. “It was tough as I basically had the immune system of a four month old baby.” says Andy. Andy is now in remission but he will be on antibiotics for the rest of his life.