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!

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.

‘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!

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.


Neil McClean

The link to the Anthony Nolan homepage:


11 thoughts on “Spit and Save

  1. Great blog Neil. Very touched by your story. Enquired about joining the bone marrow register, but at 52 Im too old. If there are other initiatives I can support you on, please let me know. My email ruth.baker1@blueyonder.co.uk. Ruth

    1. Thank you very much Ruth! Try ‘delete blood cancer’ too- I believe they have less of an age restriction.
      Once again, thank you for the support!

  2. Everyone loves what you guys tend to be up too. Such clever
    work and coverage! Keep up the good works guys I’ve included you
    guys to my personal blogroll.

  3. Keep up the great work buddy. The Sutton Marsden looked after me after my donor was found. From Israel. Let’s get everyone signed up to the register.

  4. Hi Neil, so sorry to hear about this setback but just love your feistiness and wonderful sense of humour! If anyone can fight and overcome this, you will and good luck to the hospital staff but I bet they all love you! Sending you lots of love and a massive hug. xx

  5. I registered after reading about your story on the university page. Hope someone is matched to you soon and you begin to get better. Keep fighting and thanks for highlighting the importance of bone marrow donations, I personally hadn’t looked into it before. Stay strong. 🙂

  6. cheeky boy, its Baldy….. GREAT BLOG….. i’ll be doon wi yer unc nixt time….keep one of your chins up..

  7. Hello Neil I have tried to e.mail you and your dad. I met your dad a couple of weeks ago in Liverpool while he was up for the Southampton game. I am Jim Lynch,s sister and I was asking your dad how you were doing. Jim gave me your e.mails but there was a problem sending it.
    But Then today I read the article in Liverpool echo. I am afraid my husband and I are too old for the Anthony Nolan register but my son is on the donor register already.
    We are all thinking of you and your family and pass on my very best wishes to your mum and dad and brother we are all wishing you a speedy recovery.
    Lots love Helen Cain

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