Later I would realize. Talking to others who had had leukaemia, I found many similar stories; "they couldn't cure an abscess" or "they couldn't cure this or that". In my case, a low back pain brought on by changing a wheel on my car, caused me to have trouble turning in bed unassisted, and a month later (spring 2005) it was still the same.
I passed a review for the health insurance at work because lower back pain does not normally last very long. The doctor who treated me, prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs which helped to subdue the pain. Despite the fatigue I felt I went to work again, more with will than health. What was wrong with me? I had recently passed my annual medical review and deemed "fit" by a series of tests including blood tests.
My face began to take an uglier form and so I went to the doctor, but more for the advice of my coworkers than my own judgement because I hadn't realized my physical changes. When the doctor saw me the first thing she asked was if I had gone to see her due to the colour of my face. They sent me for various tests that morning, including a blood analysis. They called me in the afternoon when they had the results. The CBC showed completely unbalanced results. They told me that I had a type of cancer but they couldn't define which type at that stage, so I needed to urgently go to hospital. That was October 2005 and I was 48 years old.
That day I felt like the world had turned upside down. I was more concerned for my family than for myself because I took for granted that I would have to go through a painful process before finally dying and having to leave them alone. I made the journey home (more or less an hour by car) with tears in my eyes. I went home instead of going to the hospital. What difference would a day make? I had to talk to my wife and make preparations: the next day it would all start.
I went to the Infanta Cristina Hospital in Badajoz, where they put a name to my illness: M4 hypereosinophilic Acute Myloid Leukaemia with a bad karyotype prognosis.
I think we knew what the bad prognosis meant. I later learned that the medical team had talked privately to my family to explain to them that the most likely outcome was that I would die. I tell you this, 5 years later and cured of my disease. I also learned that the annual medical review at my company had not carried out a full analysis because the blood in the test tube clotted and they read it as good.
In Badajoz, I was prepared with three chemos before the transplant took place on the 23rd of May 2006 in the Puerta de Hierro Hospital in Madrid. The old hospital had been in San Martín de Porres. It was a transplant with umbilical cord stem cell from a British female donor. I do not know what lengths the haematological team at Puerta de Hierro went to in order to find a donor. The road was tough, but I did it. Science has cured me despite the prognosis. Not everything is written, my friends, it is important not to lose faith.
The umbilical stem cells that were transplanted into Mariano.
In normal conditions, all of us live without pausing to think of other issues that we know exist, that are there, but we pass over them lightly. I refer to the donations and the quantity of people who are generously and altruistically behind them; without them I would not be writing this. Thanks to the donors and my wonderful doctors and nurses from who I have only received love and support and thanks to AFAL for the use of their welfare flat.
I now live better than before, and I hold more value for even the little things. Thank you everyone.
Mariano Crucera Ramos
* Through its REDMO (Bone Marrow Donors Registry) programme, the José Carreras Foundation against Leukaemia administers the searches for unrelated donors of bone marrow and umbilical cord blood. The searches are conducted for spanish and foreign patients after they are petitioned by an accredited hospital in our country or by an international registry.
Help people like Mariano by becoming a member of the cure for leukaemia and haematological malignacies, HERE. You will help us to continue our research so that one day these diseases will be 100% curable. With only a little you can do so much. Thank you!
Find out more about bone marrow donation, HERE