Just got back from the Men’s Singles at Wimbledon. What a treat! We were given tickets by Nick’s cousins as a kind of “cheer up” present and it did the trick. Nick has never been and I think the last time I went was nearly 40 years ago when, as the most junior in the newsroom, I worked as a gofer and runner for ITN’s sports correspondents and I scarcely caught a glimpse of the tennis. It was a thrilling match today, though I thought the crowd were a bit unkind in their evident preference for Federer. Djokovic can’t help being a youthful Serb. He got his revenge!
And yesterday we attended the wedding of another cousin of Nick’s, Anthony White, who married Yvonne at Chelsea Town Hall and then lunch at the Chelsea Arts Club. It was a lovely occasion and we finished off the day seeing Lakme at the Holland Park Opera.
The last thing my consultant said to me on Friday was “pack it all in”, i.e. with activities before five weeks in hospital and then three to four months in which I am shall be grounded and not allowed to go in to any public places, not even to return home to Spain. So I intend to see lots of people next week and fit in a few more plays and films to build up my happy memory bank.
Apologies for saying in my last blog that the film I am doing for Newsnight would be going out on Thursday. It was discovered that a film on Srebrenica had been scheduled for that night and there would have been too much doom and disaster for the one programme. My film is now going out on Monday or Tuesday. Then I must start packing and preparing to go in to hospital on the 21st. My donor has passed his/her medical and a biopsy last week shows that my marrow is in a good state to receive new stem cells so all looks good. I am even looking forward to the date. The end to this nightmare could be in sight!
I have a new donor and will be back in hospital in about two weeks for the stem cell procedure.
I got the news in intriguing circumstances. I am making a film for Newsnight (to be shown on this Thursday night) and found myself filming in Westminster Abbey. Ever since this began, my Roman Catholic friends have been reciting novenas and lighting candles and my Buddhist friends have been chanting and lighting incense sticks and I had sort of forgotten the denomination in to which I was baptised, the C. of E. Desperate enough to try anything, I touched the tomb of Edward the Confessor and lit a candle in the Abbey and “ping” went my phone – a message from the hospital that I had a donor. So, there’s proof – Henry V111 and Archbishop Cranmer are vindicated. The Anglicans have it! The stout King and the learned Cranmer…
I was rather hoping all the publicity would die down but there seems to be as much appetite as ever. I was on Sunday Morning Live on BBC One TV this morning and the Victoria Derbyshire Show (BBC Two) are running my video diary again tomorrow morning and are asking me to come in to the studio, which means another early start. But the good thing is that the message is definitely getting out. Every time there s a bit of publicity more donors come forward so I must keep at it so that some good can come out of all this.
Am feeling so much happier and more positive about the future. Thanks for everyone’s continuing support.
The Anthony Nolan Day at the BBC was a great success. 80 BBC members of staff and, by a strange coincidence, the exactly same number of members of the public turned up, making 160 new donors in person on the day and hundreds more applied to register online. Then there is the knock on effect – because of all the publicity, more people are in the know. My stepdaughter has encouraged Exeter City F.C. to get involved and the secretary of my brother George’s former rugby club, Rosslyn Park, is encouraging all their players to follow suit. All those fit, sweaty, testosterone filled young men is exactly what is needed. As my consultant said to me, with great tact, “I admit that women are better at everything than men except when it comes to stem cell donation.” Men tend to produce more and stronger stem cells.
I shall continue trying to spread the word. The Victoria Derbyshire show (BBC2 and the BBC News Channel on Monday mornings) has persuaded me to do a “video diary” on the countdown to finding a donor. The first extract will be on tomorrow morning, Monday the 29th. My hospital, UCH, say that they could have good news as soon as next week. Here’s hoping.
Meanwhile, I have kept busy. Went to the Paco Pena Flamenco at Sadler’s Wells last night. So sexy and dramatic with tiny Paco himself, now in his 80s, still producing wonderful music from his guitar. Off now for a stomp around Hampstead Heath and am going to some Buddhist “gong-in” with my sister this evening. An appropriate thing to do as the Dalai Lama is in town.
Thank you to everyone for your help and support.
Thanks to the BBC, ITN, Channel 4 News the Daily Mail, we’ve had a great start to the donor campaign on behalf of the Anthony Nolan register. Hundreds of people have volunteered to either come to the BBC in London on Monday or to register online. Apologies for getting my phone number wrong in my last blog. As it turns out, it is not necessary. Such has been the response, that the Anthony Nolan team are going to set up a stall for BBC people on the 4th floor of NBH and there will be a stall in the reception area on the ground floor. I shall try and float between the two. It’ll be open 10.00-16.00 or “for as long as people show up”, says Ann O’Leary, Head of Registry and Development at Anthony Nolan.
Better if I let Ann explain the process: Joining the Anthony Nolan register saves lives and simply involves spitting into a tube. You can sign up between the ages of 16 and 30, and after that you could be asked to donate your cells any time before you are 60. Young people are far more likely to donate their stem cells and save a life, and they have better outcomes for patients. They are also less likely to have health complications which could delay or prevent donation.
If you are found to be a match, it’s not painful to donate your stem cells – it’s usually very like giving blood. Anthony Nolan is urgently in need of young men in particular, as it’s thought they can produce more stem cells and are more likely to be able to save a life, but are very underrepresented on the register. It also costs the charity £100 for every person who signs up, so it’s vital to raise money too. Go to www.anthonynolan.org to sign up today or to find out how else you can help.If you want to support the work of Anthony Nolan, you can text SPIT60 to 70070, to make a £5 donation. You can also donate at www.justgiving.com/BBCPatientAppeal.
Please don’t forget that Anthony Nolan only accept people before their 31st birthday. However, there is another agency in the UK that accepts people up to 55: http://www.deletebloodcancer.org.uk.
I am so grateful for everyone’s support. I was thrilled when one of the agencies who send walkers to our hotel in Spain, the incomparable inntravel. appealed to their clients for help. An especial thanks to all my mates in the media. A lovely young man from the Sunday Times, Josh Glacey, came to my house yesterday to interview me. The results will be in the Sunday Times News Review on Sunday.
Even if this initiative does not help me, it could help hundreds of others and will have been well worth it. Thank you everyone.
Still waiting for a donor. I am told that four have been identified but there are lots of hurdles and tests to go through before the decision is taken to “harvest” their cells. This could take four to six weeks.
Meanwhile, Tony Hall (Director General of the BBC) has kindly agreed for the Anthony Nolan Trust to appeal for donors at the new BBC building (as seen in W1A), New Broadcasting House, on Monday, June 22nd. I shall be there to encourage and thank those who volunteer to give a saliva sample and become possible stem cell donors. Sadly, only those under 30 years need apply which rules out the vast majority of my friends. But, if you know any willing young people living or working in London on that day, please ask them to come along. Just call me on 07956309335 and I’ll come and get them.
I continue to try to enjoy/endure this strange interlude in my life when I can’t go back to work because a hospital admission is always imminent and my movements are limited by hospital tests. I was feeling pretty depressed last week when Nick solved the problem by booking us to see a Greek tragedy – Oresteia at the Almeida. For those of you who have forgotten….Agamemnon kills his daughter, Klytemnestra (his wife) kills him and then their son, Orestes, kills his mother and her lover. It was a good choice by Nick because it certainly put my problems in perspective! Seriously, though, it is a skilful and dramatic adaptation and well worth seeing.
Still no donor and my platelets count is too low for more chemo so what can I do? Have a good time is the answer. Went to see a play about the English Civil War, Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, at the National Theatre which included an accurate reanactment of the so called Putney debate among Cromwell, the Levellers, the Ranters, the Diggers et al in 1647 where our forebears discuss not just revolutionary ideas such as regicide but also universal suffrage and secularism. Fascinating. By way of light relief, we went to see High Society at the Old Vic which was slick and fun. There was a fabulous night at the Royal Opera House and La Traviata where a Latvian diva, Marina Rebeka, had most of the audience in tears at her death scene in the last act and my week of culture was nicely rounded off by Daniel Barenboim and three Schubert sonatas at the Royal Festival Hall which earned him a standing ovation by the entire audience. Never seen anything like it at the RFH.
Then joy! The doctors, not knowing what to do with me and increasingly impatient with my impatience, let me go to Mallorca for a few days which was bliss. We went boating, walking and even had small drinks party. It was great to gaze at the mountains, enjoy the weather, catch up with friends and to see “my girls” Adriana, Nicoletta and Crina at the hotel and to note how Ca’n Reus is functioning almost worryingly well without me!
Heard from the hospital this morning that the donor has not passed his medical and so the cell transplant will not take place as scheduled. It could be that he had an infection, was found to be HIV positive or had worn his constitution down with too much beer, wurst und kartofel. I shall never know but I wish him well. The hunt is now on for a new donor which could take four to six weeks. I may need another chemo session to keep me going in the meantime but can’t right now because another bit of the blood – my platelets – are too low. Having battled with the white blood cells, the neutrophils, over the last few months, I now find myself with a new uncooperative ingredient. Platelets are what make your blood clot. I guess they are what the late tsarevitch did not have enough of, poor little chap.
But unlike poor Tsarevitch Alexei Nikolaevich, I have modern medicine on my side and not the mad Rasputin so I am trying to remain optimistic.. A new donor will be found but this horrible time is going to go on longer than I expected.