Transplant Day

For those of you who follow my progress solely via my blog, I can only apologise for the infrequency of updates- but please take this as a good thing! As I’m sure you know, when writing these blogs the majority of material is hospital related. This is because I figure that not many people want to hear about my day-to-day life when at home, hence the lack of blog posts means I have stayed out of hospital.

The beginning of July was my last post and we were slap bang in the middle of ‘Murray Mania’ at Wimbledon and ‘Exasperating England’ at the Euros- the less said about that the better.

Since July, although i have required a few hospital trips due to minor infections, I have mainly been keeping a low profile at home and continuing my course of chemotherapy as an outpatient. However, behind the scenes a lot of work has been carried out by a lot of people in preparation for my transplant, to whom I am eternally grateful.

The last mention of a bone marrow donor, back in July, was that of a 10/10 Brazilian match with the transplant date around late August, early September. Unfortunately, for several reasons, this was  not as good a match as first anticipated and we were unable to proceed with the transplant at that time. Bang went my dreams of playing great footie and delivering a ‘Strictly 10’ samba!

In recent weeks however, I was informed that a male in his mid-twenties will be my donor, with the transplant date being today, Friday 7th October! The donor has been confirmed and over the previous two daimg_5072ys he has generously been donating his stem cells. The cells were couriered yesterday to The Royal Marsden, where they will be transfused into me later today.

In preparation for today, I have been receiving daily courses of radiotherapy for the last couple of weeks (fast tracking my St. Tropez sun tan). This involved lying completely still for roughly 40 minute sessions- a challenge for me at the best of times. To help with this, each day they played calming background music, but I questioned their song choice when Dido, ‘The Best Days of My Life’ came on!

This amazing journey that I am on would not have been possible without the help and support of various groups of people and organisations. My ongoing thanks go to The Royal Marsden in Sutton which has become my second home, and all the staff that work there, namely the consultants, nurses, catering staff, social workers, porters and anyone else who has had to put up with me (you know who you are)!

Further thanks go to organisations like the Anthony Nolan Trust who were instrumental in finding my donor. If you haven’t already done so please consider either spitting in a pot (if you are of suitable age) or making a small donation to these charities. Please click here to join the register and here to donate to Anthony Nolan.

Last but by no means least, today would not have been possible without the selfless act of my donor. One of my wishes is that one day I will be able to personally thank him from the bottom of my heart!

From tomorrow, while I take time to adjust to my new and improved immune system, I will be in isolation for a few weeks and on quite a cocktail of drugs. Myimg_5065 recovery and treatment thereafter will be ongoing possibly for up to 6 months, so guess what, more blogs to follow…sorry!

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Game, Set and MATCH!

After two months of searching, I have finally found a bone marrow donor match- but more on that later!

Its been about a month since my last post so there is plenty to catch up on! Ill pick up where I left off with the blood clot. I am pleased to say that the headaches have subsided and although I am no doctor, I think it is safe to say the clot has dispersed – Neil 1, blood clot 0!

1_123125_123073_2156470_2167276_070607_ex_horsetn.jpg.CROP.original-originalChemotherapy has continued over the last month, some of which required a stay in the Marsden until the chemicals were cleared from my system. Having gone in on the Thursday, I was optimistic that I would be out by Saturday, however to achieve this goal, I needed to take on a lot of fluid in order to flush the drug through. And of course, what goes in…must come out-I was never very far from the toilet! Unfortunately, the hours spent in the toilet were in vain – I hadn’t cleared the drug sufficiently on Saturday and another night in hospital was required. With my 21st Birthday on the Monday looming, I was anxious to clear the drug and decided to up the volume of fluid intake…I was pissing like a racehorse!
Fortunately my plan worked this time and I managed to get home on Sunday evening, the night before my birthday.

My original plan of having a big birthday bash had to be put on hold, for obvious reasons, however I was pleasantly surprised by my scheming best mate, Luke, and my girlfriend, Emily. My quiet night with the family and the aforementioned conspirators was suddenly changed when I opened the door to a load of my close friends! I did wonder why my mum had picked up an extra 8 steaks from Lidl. My Dad took control of the BBQ and asked how everyone wanted their steaks. He needn’t have bothered asking however as ‘really well done’ is his forte – and to be honest, it was the only option on the menu!
Nonetheless, I had a great night and not even the England result could wipe the smile off my face-thanks everyone!13423764_10154217901819641_5984687345717062757_n

I received lots of lovely presents from my family and friends, including tickets from Emily to see
Coldplay at Wembley – a fantastic concert and a memorable night!

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Another highlight of my birthday week was being able to attend the filming of ‘A League of Their Own’ courtesy of my old mate Jack (Whitehall). The show was hilarious and at the end we were able to go on set and spend some time with him and his mates, namely Freddie Flintoff, Joey Barton, Jamie Redknapp and John Bishop- not that I’m name dropping!

One present that no one was expecting came earlier in the day of my birthday in the form of a perfect, 10/10 donor match for my anticipated bone marrow transplant later this year. To our surprise the donor, who must remain anonymous, comes from Brazil. I’m hoping that post transplant I will acquire some samba rhythm and new-found football skills, even though I already have both in abundance! On a more serious note, a lot can change between now and transplant day and because of this they are continuing to search the database for a further two back-up matches.

Finding my perfect donor would not have been possible without the Anthony Nolan charity. I am fortunate enough to have found a donor, however there are many others still searching. With this in mind I ask anyone who hasn’t yet ‘spat in a pot’ to please consider doing so. The more people there are on the database, the greater the chance of finding a perfect match for those in need. Please click here to join the register.
For those of you who are too old to register as a donor, don’t think you are getting off without contributing! For every young person that spits it costs the charity £60 to process and add them to the database. For this reason, I have set up a JustGiving page for the Anthony Nolan Charity and would be grateful for any financial contributions. Youngsters and wrinklies working together! Please click here to visit the JustGiving page.

 

Good crack

It’s been quite an eventful week.

Pie-face

I was released from hospital on Wednesday, just in time to enjoy a BBQ and a game of boules in the garden back home. I also fancied a new look so called my stylist round to get to work – as you can see from the pictures, I’ve gone for a more rugged look, channelling my inner Pie Face.

 

IMG_4442Getting my hair shaved off was a good laugh, but it’s also a practicality. Better to have my girlfriend Emily buzz it than to wake up with half of it lying on the pillow!

 

A word of advice: my mum’s been good for lots of things, but don’t trust her with a razor after half a bottle of wine. (In the end I decided that no sideburns was better than one – not that I had a choice).

IMG_4445Brace yourselves, this next bit contains scenes of nudity and is rated 18. The pathways for chemotherapy delivery are wide and varied: I’ve had it orally, intravenously, and this week, intra-bum-ily. I believe that’s the technical term.

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Good, reliable bike rack. One careful owner.

I lay face down on the bed with my pants down and my little raisin arse on show to the world. My bum was numbed with a cold spray, and I waited for three seconds. Two nurses, attending to one bum cheek each, then simultaneously jabbed my rear end. They even treated the affected area to a brief massage afterwards. I do not believe there was any medical reason for doing this, but it was rather nice.

 

I don’t just have affections for the female members of staff – I’ve been getting on very well with one of the male doctors. Being a Fulham fan, he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he knows his stuff and we’ve struck up a bit of a bromance. The other day, he did a ‘sensation test’ on me to ensure there were no numb patches on my face. This involved him gently caressing various areas of my face, finishing with a brief stroke of my nose. It was cute – we had a moment.

Later that week, the same guy took me down for an MRI scan as I was having quite severe headaches, and there were concerns I might have a blood clot on my brain. We waited anxiously for him to return with the results, and when he did, he said he had good news and bad news. We braced ourselves, and opted for the good news first. There was no blood clot, he said. And the bad news? I’ve got a really tiny brain. The bastard.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in hospital, it’s that things can change quite quickly. Two days after getting home and enjoying boules, BBQ and buzz cut, I went straight back in with further headaches. A scan showed that this time there really was a blood clot on my brain. Treatment has already begun, and it involves anticoagulants to thin my blood and in turn dissolve the clot. From butt-rub to blood clot – hospital life eh?

13244669_10153580474108483_6783817652861982569_nI’d like to extend a big thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has read my blog and signed up to the Anthony Nolan register. I’ve had an incredible 16,000 views on the blog, and 210 people signed up to the Anthony Nolan register within the first weekend of me posting. Comedian Jack Whitehall has kindly shared it with his 5m followers, and Sir Matthew Pinsent and Everton Football Club have done so too.

In case you missed it, I’ve posted a video below on how to sign up and what’s involved – it’s super easy and painless. And if you were thinking about signing up but didn’t get round to it, please consider doing so now as it is World Blood Cancer Day!

 

Spit and Save

May I just start this blog by apologising for not keeping people as up to date as I should have. My last blog was written on March 14th 2014 and needless to say a lot has happened in my life since then.

You may remember that two years ago I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia- a condition I could barely pronounce, let alone understand. I wrote a few blog posts outlining my disease and how I was coping with the treatment, with a few funny anecdotes along the way.

Blog 1- Curveball         Blog 2- Gas

A lot has happened since. I came off intensive treatment, moved back home, and began ‘maintenance’ chemotherapy, a lower-dose form. I was getting back on with my day to day life – I started back at university in Glasgow, and picked up a few new hobbies, including golf, cooking, and pretending to study. I met loads more fantastic pals, reconnected with all my friends from my short time in first year, whilst keeping in touch with mates back in London. And yes, I still support Everton – someone has to!

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Everton blue in my veins!

Unfortunately, last month, on Tuesday 26th April, I received some pretty devastating news. I relapsed and the leukaemia had returned, albeit only in my spinal fluid and not in the bone marrow.

Nonetheless, it will still require another battle. Unfortunately for the leukaemia, it is a battle that I am willing to fight tooth and nail to win. The treatment will be similar to last time, however with the addition of a bone marrow transplant.

IMG_4102
‘Tropical juice 2.0’

I have been in hospital well over a week now and without running the risk of sounding like a seasoned veteran, I am pleased to say that there are several familiar faces still at the Royal Marsden in Sutton. With the addition of a few new ones accompanying the already very friendly nursing staff that help treat me, I must say it has softened the blow

of having to re-visit somewhat. Being able to chat to the nurses like they are your friends reduces the sense that I am actually in hospital and makes for a great laugh! Lovely to see them, shame about the circumstances.

Sadly, I don’t think they’re as pleased to see me! My uncle brought a plastic cockroach down from Glasgow as he came to visit last week – a big, hairy, scary, purple thing – and it’s been cropping up all over the ward, to the terror of the nurses. As one of them came over to hook me up to a drip for the umpteenth time, I placed it on my arm. She wasn’t best pleased!

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The cockroach in question

Half the battle comes from staying in hospital for so long, and I was relieved to be told I could pop out into the car park for some fresh air this week. My uncle interpreted the phrase “car park” with some artistic licence, and decided we should take a visit to the local pub. There I was, kicking back in the beer garden with an ice cold coke and a packet of salt and vinegar crisps when, of course, I was spotted by a member of off-duty staff. “Neiiillll!” she shouted over with a confused look on her face. Busted!

On a more serious note, the bone marrow transplant means I need to find a donor in order to save my life. I always thought that signing up for a donor register of any sort would mean I’d get dragged into a hospital and come out with one less lung or kidney. Bone marrow transplant, I’ve learnt, is nothing of the sort – and I’d love for you to consider signing up to donate yours.

A common misconception is that donating bone marrow is painful. There’s a great video narrated by Steve Coogan below which can explain all of this better than I can, but in essence, there are three, incredibly simple steps, which will help to save a life, possibly mine. Think how many drinks I’d owe you!

  • Sign up to the Anthony Nolan register *here*, and spit in a pot. Yes, it really is as simple as that.
  • You’ll get added to the database, and then you wait. And wait, until they find someone in need of a transplant who matches your tissue type.
  • If you are matched with someone, you’re given injections to increase your bone marrow production. Nine times out of ten, you’re then hooked up to a machine, and those excess bone marrow cells are collected from your blood and given to someone who needs them – like me!

Even if you’re not a match for me, you could help save someone else’s life.

The Anthony Nolan charity, which runs the main bone marrow register and organises the transplants, do a fantastic job, the importance of which cannot be underestimated.

So it’s a heartfelt plea from myself in my hour of need. I honestly would not be able to thank you enough and it really would mean so much, to me and others in a similar position.

Yours,

Neil McClean

The link to the Anthony Nolan homepage:

 

Gas

If there’s anything that I have learnt from the past couple of weeks it’s that laughing gas is some funny shit. It’s been a few weeks since I wrote the last blog so bare with me- we have a lot to catch up on!

Another bone marrow biopsy has come and gone, however, unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a video of me spouting crap while as high as a kite. What I do have is a few very reliable sources- the poor nurses, my mum and my uncle- assuring me that I was talking even more rubbish than I usually do (hard to believe, I know).
Its difficult to describe the feeling of being on laughing gas without directly relating it to being in Hippodrome on a Saturday night. The first time I was under the influence of nitrous oxide it was very odd indeed. Apprehensive about what I was about to go through, I was inhaling it like it was going out of date and I gradually found myself giggling uncontrollably like a prepubescent teenager. Some say it was just air I was inhaling, I naturally disagree- its strong stuff honest!

I had asked the nurse to turn up the radio as it was ‘Club Classics’ with Mark Wright on Heart and I was having a whale of a time! Singing away to every song that was blaring through the speakers, the nurses pressed through with the procedure. The actual feeling of the needle being inserted into my back was initially like a mild cramp, nothing too painful. Shortly after, however, as the fluid was pulled out from my spine, I started to feel something else, something worrying. It was all too reminiscent of being in a club and letting a sneaky fart go, only to debate whether or not it was just an innocent fart or something far more serious; boys we’ve all been there (girls, I hope you haven’t!) I thought I had shit myself… My dignity. Shattered. Gone. I whispered to my mum who was next to me, ‘mum, I think I’ve just crapped my pants.’ For some reason she cracked up laughing. This is not the reaction you want from your mother when looking for reassurances that you haven’t done a ‘doo doo’ in your pants at the age of eighteen.

The nurse overheard me and eventually, after also laughing at my misfortune, assured me that I was safe. I believe she reached this conclusion after carrying out the highly scientific procedure known as the “sniff test”. Needless to say there was an overwhelming sense of relief. With this I grew in confidence. I was proud to say I hadn’t shit myself – it was nothing more than the feeling of the procedure. Fully aware  that my dad was sitting on the other side of the curtain, I screeched out in my best scouse accent, ‘eh, eh dad, I’ve just farted’! I hadn’t, and I knew I hadn’t, but it felt like the right thing to say. All fun and games eh! Eventually the nurses finished up and they all had a great laugh at my expense. Happy days, over for another week and very little discomfort at all.

Ding, ding- round two. Same place, same procedure. That’s right, this is a weekly thing so I have no excuse for a lack of material to put in my blog!
I was wheeled up to the same room as before and rolled into the same bay. Everything was the same, apart from the nurse. Thank God. I wouldn’t have to relive the humiliation. We went through the niceties and I told her to expect more of the same, hoping I would try to keep it PG this time. Exactly like the week before, I asked the nurse to turn up the music, ‘Club Classics’ again. I started to inhale the gas just as I had done previously and suddenly there was a huge sense of déjà vu. Not in terms of my bowel movements but the music. ‘Mum, I’ve heard this song, this was on last time I was in here’. I was informed it was Adele, Set fire to the rain. Something didn’t add up. This was not the song that was playing in my head, nor was it the song that was on the last time. I bolted up to get a better listen. I was certainly not hearing Adele. It sounded like a song from the Magaluf strip – repetitive, electric beats. I tapped out the rhythm with my hands – mindlessly strumming away while more spinal fluid was extracted. As it turns out, the song didn’t exist; I had heard a radio advert ending in “.co.uk” and had repeated it over and over again in my head, creating a little beat. Bloody strange stuff that gas, but at least it had given me some musical inspiration.

The procedure went just as smoothly again with only one minor hiccup. I say minor, it was bloody huge! There I was, lying on my side inhaling the laughing gas and suddenly the air flow stopped. I took the mouth piece out and told my mum to stop leaning on the gas tube. She quickly looked down and was adamant that it was straight with no kinks, and she wasn’t on it. Yeah you guessed it. I had used the whole canister of gas. I was forced to inhale nothing but air for the rest of the procedure. It wasn’t nearly as fun, believe me! It must seem strange to you guys. Everything I write about seems to be about me being as high as a kite on laughing gas. I’m not addicted-honest!

Moving on from it, I have also undergone several other procedures, one of which I am particularly keen on informing you about. I’m not exactly sure what the purpose of it was but it involved two, yes two nurses, simultaneously cleaning and well, if I were to be blunt, massaging one buttock each. Sounds nice in principle, although I should also mention that they stuck two great big needles in the aforementioned area. A bitter sweet experience.

Now comes the mushy part.
While I have been in here the support I have received has been immense. My family and friends have been incredible. I have been truly overwhelmed by the messages, cards, gifts and general positive attitude that everyone has shown and I can honestly say that it makes a huge difference. If I’m at all down in anyway, all I need to do is to look behind my bed at the messages of support that you guys have given me and it instantly picks me up. I am fully aware that it would be very easy for me to say this and for you guys not to believe me, but please do- you really do make a difference, so thank you.
A special mention goes out to my big cousin Lee McClean and his great friend Jon, a top Everton groundsman. Between the pair of them they managed to, probably steal (they’re scousers!), an Everton corner flag from the famous Gwladys Street end and get it signed by the players. Needless to say that it brought a HUGE smile to my face! Thank you so much guys!
Last but certainly not least a massive thank you needs to be said to my Uncle Alan. He has travelled down from Glasgow a couple of times now and has been nothing but (another) pain in my arse. He has been annoying the hell out of everyone, including the poor nurses, and generally making a nuisance of himself, yet always manages to make the days seem to go quicker and helps keep me positive and upbeat.

I am going to wrap it up there. There will be another blog out soonish as there are a few other points I’d like to share with you but I am fully aware I am dragging this one out. Once again I’ve attached a few more photos just to keep you entertained!

NSNO x

My favourite type of gas!
My favourite type of gas!
Lee & Jon - Legends!
Lee & Jon – Legends!
Priorities!
Priorities!
Payback!
Payback!
Before!
Before!
After!  #Selfie!
After!
#Selfie!
The 'bampot' from Glasgow!
The ‘bampot’ from Glasgow!

Curveball

On Friday 7th February 2014 I was dealt a minor curveball in my life.

Feeling slightly unwell and getting a lot of stick from both family and friends for being a pussy ( a name that has lived proudly in the McClean household since me and my brother were born), I trudged off to the local GP to try convince them that the medication previously prescribed to me wasn’t working and that I was in pain still. Firstly though I had to check the pain was still there myself, and I was proud to announce that it was. Get in, I finally have a valid reason to miss lectures.

The GP sympathetically let me go to the hospital to get an X-ray of my chest, so I wandered off down the road heading towards news large enough to turn my world upside down.

For me this blog isn’t about informing you of the details of my illness, it’s about trying to show you that this hospital life isn’t all that bad and in actual fact 3 meals a day is normal, as opposed to a bowl of cereal once a day, if I’m lucky! It will be written in the most upbeat fashion possible and it’s intended to make you guys laugh and certainly not cry. For those of you that have had first hand experience of my English skills, you know exactly who I’m talking about, you will also know that they ‘ain’t quality atall’, but I’ll try my best!

I reached the Western, the local hospital, and waited until my name was called. I got the standard checks you would get when you go to hospital and I remember thinking when the guy was taking my blood, ‘pah, ain’t gonna find anything in there wee man’. After these were completed, I went back to the waiting room where I got talking to a lovely elderly Glaswegian, a Rangers fan too! After a long wait I got taken into a ward where there were 3 other elderly men.

It was here I got a visit from my uncle. He sauntered in and proceeded to laugh! ‘Ya big fanny, so y’ar! There’s nothing wrong with you’. At the time I couldn’t agree more. I was sitting, right as rain, no pain, on an airplane. Okay so that doesn’t work but it was worth a try! I was tempted to discharge myself, go home and go to the pub- it sounded far more appealing! As he was leaving he, somehow had noticed that the hand sanitiser was facing perfectly towards my crotch. Alan has a knack for making an absolute tit out of you, out of nowhere! He then slammed his hand down on the squirty top and it created the most glorious arc of hand sanitiser heading directly for my crotch. May I add I was also wearing grey jogging bottoms… Fortunately he didn’t follow up on his threat of going to get the nurse to tell her I had got a bit excited!

Eventually I got word from the doctor that there was a small problem with my blood count and they wanted to move me to the Beatson institute, a cancer specialist unit at Gartnavel hospital. It was perhaps here that I should have clocked that something was up. I was transferred to the new hospital in a taxi ambulance, don’t get too excited, it was one of those without any sirens! During the ride I had flirted with the idea that something serious could be happening, and then proceeded to laugh it off. ‘What if it’s HIV? No chance. What if it’s cancer? Nah you canny get cancer in the blood I don’t think!’ These thoughts came and went and eventually I met my mum and Auntie Alison in the hospital. My mother was meant to be up spoiling me, taking my shopping and for dinner. Instead she sat in whilst I got told the news that would temporarily put my life on hold for a matter of months.

I’ll try to keep each blog to a reasonable length so as to prevent boredom, however this was one days worth! I promise the future ones will be more upbeat and a whole load funnier. This may even include a video of me on nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas, which is bloody brilliant stuff! I’m also going to end each blog with NSNO- for those of you who don’t know what this means, you will laugh but it’s short for ‘Nil Satis Nisi Optimum’. This is Evertons motto which is Latin for ‘Nothing but the best is good enough’. Sounds odd but I will beat this and get back to my normal life straight away. Plus, I needed to get some form of Everton shit in somewhere!

Peace,

NSNO x

Just a few photos too keep you all entertained too…

Looks almost palatable
Tropical Juice?

High as a kite on gas ad air!
High as a kite on gas and air!
Like a kid in a candy shop!
Like a kid in a candy shop!