4/21/2007: Moving Toward The Next Phase of Care

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - One gene directs both embryonic and adult stem cells to perform the self-renewal function that is crucial in their potential broad use in medical treatments, researchers said on Thursday.While the biology of these types of stem cells is very different, a study published in the journal Cell showed that they share at least this one key feature -- a gene called Zfx that controls their ability to self-renew.READ MORE

Biology and chemistry were two of my toughest courses in college. It’s a small wonder that I concentrated on the language arts, earning a communications degree before my adult pursuit in nonprofit organizational and hospital philanthropy. See more about my daytime activity at the website of THE FOOTHILL FOUNDATION.

But now, my interest in science, biology, medicine, even chemistry is top of mind as I battle with mantle cell lymphoma. Perhaps equaled only by the volume of drugs I am given to fight this disease is my current appetite for information, notably about stem cell research.

This May or June may find me at The City of Hope (Duarte, CA) to undergo a 3-6 week stay for an AUTOLOGOUS stem cell transplant. Here, they harvest my own stem cells, administer high dose chemo therapy to eliminate every trace of the lymphoma possible (essentially wiping out my immune system), and then they transplant my own stem cells to rebuild my immunity to infection. The procedure is becoming very common as a disease fighter for more than cancer. It is an example of a modern medical miracle.

It is amazing how medical miracles keep occurring in my life, starting with birth when I was nearly three months premature and spent months in the hospital to gain weight and strength that my small (2 lb. 11 oz.) frame needed to survive.

Then, I was nearly electrocuted during a camping accident at age 2, saved only by the quick action of my father as he literally kicked me away from a live, hot electrical wire which I had explored too thoroughly. My left index finger is the only sign of that event today.

Most of my other medical rebounds are common in the population, including eye muscle surgery (twice) stemming from my premature birth; a tonsillectomy around age 10, and then plastic surgery in the early 1970s to help correct that deformed left index finger from the 1950 electrical mishap.

Also, just after both of our daughters were born in the 70s (medical miracles of their own), I was diagnosed with “sarcoidosis” (also called sarcoid or Besnier-Boeck disease), an immune system disorder characterized by non-necrotising granulomas (small inflammatory nodules). Virtually any organ can be affected; however, granulomas most often appear in the lungs (D86.0) or the lymph nodes (D86.1). Symptoms can occasionally appear suddenly but usually appear gradually. When viewing X-rays of the lungs, sarcoidosis can have the appearance of tuberculosis or lymphoma. But there have been no known ill-effects of this condition throughout my adult life and I have not required any treatment for the rare condition.

So, as you can see, my career around health care has been personal. I would not be here today without that care. I once had a hospital foundation board chairman give his reason to support and lead hospital philanthropy efforts: “I want to know my care givers before I need their care.” Sometimes that is possible; always wise.

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