14 December 2010
Not that long ago a friend of mine passed away. His name was Craig Anthony Thomas. Some people called him sneaky because he could creep up on you and scare you unintentionally. Others called him Gandalf because he was incredibly wise for his age. I just called him Craig, he was a great friend. Anyway, we found out over the beginning of summer around June that Craig was terribly sick. Doctors, when they diagnosed him, said he was in the chronic phase of a type of leukemia, meaning he still had time. There was no cure, but he had time. After about two or three months, Craig’s condition was rapidly speeding up. He lost all of his hair; he was covered in bruises; his skin was dangerously pale; his small appetite got even smaller; and he slept like a hibernating grizzly bear. Doctors said that his condition spontaneously sped up to the accelerated blast crisis phase. Meaning they misdiagnosed him because the phases do not increase that fast: it’s impossible. They said we had an educated, but estimated six months left with Craig. We lost him two weeks after. Craig was like a brother to me--someone I trusted and loved that was taken away from me by a horrible disease. After Craig died I wanted to know everything about the disease Craig was misdiagnosed with, Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML). I wanted to know everything: what causes it, is it hereditary, curable, what kind of treatment is there? I was determined to find out everything about it, because I never want somebody else to feel as helpless and uneducated as Craig’s family, friends and I still do. Even though Leukemia is not the most potent form of cancer in the United States, it still affects thousands of people each year; Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia is a type of leukemia that is extremely rare, but it is a virulent form of leukemia.
Cancer is a disease that is prevalent in today’s world. The website of the American Cancer Society defines cancer as follows: “Cancer is the general name for a group of more than 100 diseases in which cells in a part of the body begin to grow out of control” (“Learn About Cancer”). The human body has millions of cells in it. “Normal” cells have a cycle; they grow, divide, and then die. The website of the American Cancer Society also stated: “During the early years of a person’s life, normal cells divide faster to allow the person to grow. After the person becomes an adult, most cells divide only to replace worn out or dying cells to repair injuries” (“Learn About Cancer”). The reason for all of that information above is because cancer starts in normal cell growth. But there is a distinct difference between cancer cell growth and normal cell growth. The difference being cancer cells keep growing and form new abnormal cells. Cancer cells are also easily spread because they can invade other tissues (another thing normal cells can not do). According to the American Cancer Society website, cancer cells are created because of damaged DNA. When any DNA cell of any sort is damaged, those specific cells either repair the damage or the cell dies off. When it’s a cancer cell, the DNA is not repaired, but the cell does not die like it’s supposed to. Therefore the cell goes on making new cells that the body does not need. The new cells will contain all of the same damaged goods as the cell it was created from. Damaged DNA can be inherited, but the majority of DNA damage is caused by mistakes that will happen while the normal cell is reproducing. The cause could also be something in our environment. The cause of the DNA damage is sometimes obvious such as, cigarette smoking or pollution. But there is usually no clear cause found. Furthermore, most cancer cells form a tumor, unlike leukemia, which rarely ever forms tumors. Instead these cancer cells involve the blood, and blood forming organs and circulate through other tissues where they grow (“Learn About Leukemia”).