No blog posts here for four weeks. For one week at least I have a half-decent excuse: I was SAVING A LIFE. (For the other three, I was sitting round in my pants watching Not Going Out on iPlayer).
It all started about five years ago when I signed up for the register of the Anthony Nolan trust at the Bristol University freshers fair. They had a stall nestled in between the Circus Skills Society and the Pottery Society (both of which I also joined).
And just as with juggling and pottery, nothing happened. Then one day, I got a call. Someone, somewhere had leukaemia (probably) and would die (possibly) unless a stranger like me would help them, for I was a match (you don't know the details). It's hard to say no really: once you've done the donation they give you a complimentary memory stick.
And so, after a draining catalogue of blood tests and blood re-tests, I did the donation. Marrow donation now is not like the old days though, or even like it was just a few years ago when you lay on your front and a surgeon went into your back with a pneumatic drill. The new, easier way is to have five days of injections of stem-cell stimulating hormones and then on the fifth day to go in to hospital and get hooked up to a machine for an ominous sounding harvest. The machine is an apheresis machine, essentially an extension of your circulatory system, with in-tubes and out-tubes placed into your arms and between these a giant centrifuge which spins your blood round and harvests off the excess stem cells you've been making all week before sending the rest back into you.
Here's me hooked up. I was like this for seven hours. I watched a lot of Mad Men. Now whenever I think of Don Draper I get a dull ache in my right arm.
So it was easier than the old days, but even so it wasn't quite as easy as I let myself believe it would be. Either I reacted badly or am a complete wuss, but the injections kicked the shit out of me. The lower back pain (basically in the pelvis, where there's the most marrow, all working overtime) was all-consuming. It's weird though, without the usual mystery of unexplained suffering or the more familiar self-loathing induced by self-inflicted suffering and the knowledge that it would all be over in a few days, the agony wasn't so agonizing. I couldn't really do much: couldn't work, couldn't read, couldn't walk, couldn't talk, but it was kind of okay (most of those things I don't do much anyway). Afterwards for ages I felt as if I'd just come back from holiday. It was like a holiday to the land of sickness, and as a tourist it was kind of interesting. Really made me glad to be back in the land of the alive and well though.