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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Will You Wear White, Gilly Jenkins?

Blogging Tunes: The Howard Stern Show - September 15, 2010 (yes, I'm two years behind)

This entry is not mine, it's the story of my co-worker, Gilly Jenkins who has been battling Hodgkins Lymphoma for two years.  She's gone through a lot more sh*t than I have, and is one hell of a fighter.  She is an inspiration for me and for us all.

In my last post, I challenged you all to support the LLS and get involved in this year Light the Night walk.  If my story wasn't enough to move you, maybe her's will.  Here it is in her own words:

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Gilly and her daughter - October, 2011

My name is Gilly Jenkins and I work in the sales team for Salesforce in the UK. As well as working for the best company in the cloud, I'm a wife and the mother of a son aged ten and a daughter who's only four but seems to have been born a teenager.

I love swimming and used to regularly swim one hundred lengths of the pool at my health club - and running around the forest that surrounds my home in the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside

I've always considered myself to be fit and healthy so imagine my surprise when, approximately two years ago, I was diagnosed with stage II Hodgkins Lymphoma.  

I was assured that 95% of patients recover from this form of cancer. The cure, so I was told would be a six month course of chemotherapy

After the treatment the signs were good, my PET scan was clear. But unfortunately the cancer returned with a vengeance within a couple of months. 

The consultants needed to reduce the size of the cancer so that I could have an allogenic (donor) stem cell transplant as soon as possible and the process started in September 2011. Over the next five months I had four chemotherapy regimes.

Each course of chemotherapy meant a stay in hospital away from my family and each time I was told that the odds of sucess were high.  But, I was always in the small percentile and all four failed to get me to a stage where I could have that vital transplant. 


My favorite pic of Gilly: Proud and Strong - Feb 2012

The last chance was to try a drug called Brentuximab which isn't widely available in the UKbecause it hasn't been approved by NICE - our equivalent to the FDA. The clinical trials in the UK were looking positive but because the treatment didn't have the NICE approval, our medical insurers would not fund it.  

Brentuximab is a leading edge drug and is incredibly expensive. Because of my illness it had been a long time since I had earned the big commission payments that my family had grown used to. We would find the money somehow (I'm worth it!).  And this would mean selling our home or months of fundraising

Fortunately, we didn't have to sell the house. Marc Benioff, our CEO, most unexpectedly and very generously offered to pay for my treatment. (see related article.)

I've not met Mr Benioff in person yet.  But I read that he has the body of a bear and the mind of a fox.  I would add to that by saying he also has the soul of an angel because Brentuximab turned out to be my wonder drug.  

By March 2012 my cancer was in remission and I could have a stem cell transplant from a unrelated donor who had been found the previous November

Before the transplant I was told I had a one in four chance of dying which is kind of scary. I was advised to plan for the best and prepare for the worst, which involved getting my will up to date and writing letters to my children to remind them just how much I love them.

The transplant involves a six week stay in hospital. The first week was for "conditioning" which is an ultra high dose of chemotherapy. The day of the transplant is called Day Zero and for such an important procedure, it's a bit of an anti-climax. You lie in bed and have a painless infusion of peach coloured fluid that you hope will save your life. More gruelling is the following weeks when your body battles wi the introduction of someone else's DNA and the accompanying drugs.

On Day 100 I had a PET scan and it was clear!  That doesn't mean its all over but it is a very good step in the right direction.  I will be scanned for the next 5 years snd if there is no reappearance after eighteen months, I will be very happy. I have been warned that the cancer can always come back  and as a result of all the chemotherapy I've had , I will always have a higher risk of developing other forms of cancer but for now I would just like to get to the eighteen month mark.  

Anyway, it's now August 2012 and my road to recovery is going OK but it is three steps forward and two steps back.  I have very low blood counts which make me neutroplenic.  To boost my counts sky high doses of steroids have been added to my daily cocktail of drugs and medicine.  The consultants monitor my condition closely in a bid to find out the cause of the low blood counts and address it.  

My immune system is very low and consequently I have a high risk of infection so I have to avoid crowded oplaces, public transport and anyone with coughs, colds, fever etc.  A common cold could have serious side effects for me and I have been admitted several times since being  "released" :(

Not that I've got one but, I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. When your being treated for cancer you have a lot of time for contemplation. I have a strong and determined personality and I am completely focused on "Kicking Cancer's Arse".  I'm alive and truly grateful to have the complete support of a loving family, a dedicated medical team, the best drug treatment, a generous donor and what's more, I'm employed by a great company.  So, maybe it's best that cancer picked on me.  

I'm far from being cured  and every day I am completely exhausted but I'm very happy to be here and feel 100 % positive. I  hope to feel back to my normal self and full of energy soon and i look forward to going back to Salesforce and giving Marc Benioff a really big bear hug!


Gilly and her family - Feb 2012

I'm supporting Light the Night for all the people who need their own wonder drug.  As my story proves not all the drugs work for all patients so, it's absolutely essential that we continue to fund research to help them find a cure.


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We now return you to your regularly scheduled ass kicking.

-jg
 

1 comment:

  1. Hi John,

    I have a quick question about your blog, would you mind emailing me when you get a chance?

    Thanks,

    Cameron

    ReplyDelete