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May 17, 2004 DAY #202
This update is the first in a series of informational and promotional updates. My hope is to educate and motivate. I want to increase awareness about Leukemia and other blood cancers. Please pass these updates on to your friends and relatives! You never know, it could save someone's life some day. I am not a doctor or Leukemia expert, but I have tried to be as accurate as possible, while keeping this simple. I apologize for any factual errors in my presentation. There is a tremendous amount of information on the internet about Leukemia if you want more information.
What is Leukemia?
If you were like me, you had a vague idea that this was a bad disease that makes kids bald, and they get to go to Disney World with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Unless you have a close friend or relative with the disease, it is something you donít want to think about. Even if you have a close friend or relative who had it, there is a good chance they never told you about it until the last moment. I want to tell the world what this disease is. Leukemia does have a cure, we just need to find it.
First, let me give you the technical details. There are many different kinds of Leukemia, but the broadest definition is that it is a cancer of the blood affecting leukocytes. Leukocytes are commonly known as White Blood Cells. They are pale, nucleated blood cells that engulf and digest bacteria and fungi; an important part of the body's defense system.
There are two main types of Leukemia, Myelocytic and Lymphocytic Leukemia. The Myelocytic form is characterized by finding immature myelocytes in the blood stream. Normally, myelocytes are only found in bone marrow. Lymphocytic Leukemia causes swelling of lymph tissues and finding immature or non-functioning lymphocytes in the blood stream. In both types, so many immature cells, blasts, are produced that the bone marrow doesnít have room to produce mature blood cells of any type. This causes:
- Anemia, or too few red blood cells, which makes the victim feel tired and look pale
- Too few platelets, which causes easy bruising and cuts that donít stop bleeding
- Too few white blood cells, which results in numerous and serious infections. These are the most common causes of mortality.
Please note that baldness is not a symptom of Leukemia. It is caused by chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Each type of Leukemia can be either chronic or acute. Chronic Leukemia progresses slowly, while Acute Leukemia progresses quickly. Some people live with Chronic Leukemia for many years without treatment. I know of one person who had a spontaneous remission, and never had a relapse. Acute Leukemias progress rapidly. Depending on the type, untreated survival duration ranges from several weeks to over a year.
Using these 4 divisions of leukemia, the names are usually abbreviated to three letters:
- AML, Acute Myelogenous Leukemia
- ALL, Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia
- CML, Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia
- CLL, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
Thank you so much for listening! I sincerely hope you find this interesting and useful information. Look for Leukemia Statistics in the next update!
PS. My back is starting to feel much better! tw
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