Chris Geiger

The Cancer Survivors Club

Social Distancing experts!

SOCIAL DISTANCING IS A NEW term for many, however for those who have received cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy or undergone a Stem cell transplant, they are already experts at ’social distancing’. Cancer patients and survivors for that matter are some of the most vulnerable to Coronavirus, as their immune systems have been purposely destroyed by high doses of chemotherapy, in an attempt to kill the cancer cells found lurking in their body. To these people, myself included, taking specific precautions to manage our risk of infection, is standard practice.

I underwent a bone marrow transplant to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In the UK, more than 13,000 people are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin each year. This treatment put me at high risk of infection.

Even all these years later, I take precautions, as my body struggles more than the average person to fight infections. Just the common cold, flu or a chest infection can be very serious. I have my annual flu jab and pneumonia shot every four years, but still have to be careful. It's sad really that only now, due to the Coronavirus, everyone is learning about social distancing and washing their hands. Mrs G has always washed my bathroom towels daily, to help cut down on the chances of an infection.

The bone marrow transplant wiped out my childhood immunisations. So I've always desperately avoided anyone who may have measles, mumps, etc. In hindsight, I should have had all my childhood vaccinations again, because as I write this, I'm suffering from a severe case of Shingles, which is a member of the Chickenpox virus family.

The bone marrow transplant wiped out my childhood immunisations. So I've always desperately avoided anyone who may have measles, mumps, etc. In hindsight, I should have had all my childhood vaccinations again, because as I write this, I'm suffering from a severe case of Shingles, which is a member of the Chickenpox virus family.

Showing my age, proudly I might add, I was having my bone marrow transplant at UCH in London when the first Stem cell transplant was performed in the room next to me.

A bone marrow or stem cell transplant replaces the damaged blood cells with healthy ones. It's a procedure often used nowadays to treat conditions affecting the blood cells, such as leukaemia and lymphoma. Blood stem cells are produced in the bone marrow and amazingly can become any kind of blood cell the body needs. Stem cells are continually dividing and maturing into different types of blood cells, replacing older and worn-out blood cells in our body. Younger people who don't have any other serious conditions or those who receive bone marrow from a closely matched sibling are less likely to experience serious problems afterwards.

I was in isolation for around three months after my transplant and not allowed to leave my room. Everyone near me during this period wore protective clothing and facial masks.

Friends would drop books, magazines and supplies off, but had to stay outside my room. Even the hospital staff would keep their distance unless in an emergency; there were a couple of those! I'd have loved to see my friends at the time but didn't have a choice. I had to be careful, one infection would have killed me. I was doing everything I could to cut the chances of getting an infection.

Most would communicate with me through the window of my room, or phone until I was finally allowed home. After being in isolation for three months, I was very nervous about picking up an infection. My home environment had to be kept as clean as possible.

I'd still need daily blood tests, which were slowly pushed out to weekly, then monthly, to check how my blood was recovering. Initially, I received twice-weekly blood transfusions or platelets, to boost my system, until my new bone marrow was able to support my body on its own.

I was incredibly lucky to have such a supportive family and understanding group of friends. Mum used to limit the friends who visited, to cut down on the risk of infection. Most just phoned to check I was okay. My parents stocked up on cleaning products, hand sanitiser, liquid hand soap and surgical gloves - there was no panic buying, empty supermarket shelves or hoarding of toilet rolls back then!

Once I started feeling better and had more energy, I wanted to go outdoors. Finding isolated places where I could exercise, or meet friends without coming in contact with lots of people was a real challenge. I used to walk a few laps of the local park, down by the beach, my sister kept me company sometimes. Even touching grass or garden soil had the potential of fungal contamination.

Now with the Coronavirus restriction, its déjà vu all over again, only being allowed out once a day to exercise. Mrs G and I walk around the quiet lanes where we live, thankfully there is nobody around to avoid. This whole Coronavirus situation has bought back so many memories. I know we're all doing all we can to contain the Coronavirus.

I'm getting loads of messages via my website, from cancer patients worried about the current Coronavirus situation. My advice would be, exactly as it was to me when I had my transplant, stay at home and stay away from people.

The Coronavirus is slowing most people down, making them think. It's like everyone in the world has suddenly just received a transplant, all desperate to avoid people. When this whole situation is over, I'm hoping people will continue to think about the spread of infection. Fingers crossed, they'll continue to take precautions and act how I and millions of other people with a compromised immune system have been doing for years!

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Bad Cells

Bad Cells by Chris Geiger - Newspaper Columns

Bad Cells is a collection of Chris Geiger’s thought-provoking and witty newspaper columns. His weekly column rapidly grew in popularity, eventually earning him the prestigious Columnist of the Year award.

Bad Cells includes Chris Geiger’s wide-reaching Guinness World Record column, published on World Cancer Day and an excerpt of his top selling book The Cancer Survivors Club. It also includes an exclusive and moving article, titled Bad Cells, describing his thoughts when first diagnosed and receiving treatment for cancer.

Learn more about Bad Cells --->>>


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