By: Bob McEachern
I was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma, an indolent (slow-growing) but incurable blood cancer. Soon after I was diagnosed, I began a blog, mostly as a way to update family and friends about what was happening to me.
In the nearly 10 years since I was diagnosed, the blog has evolved into a place to inform other follicular lymphoma patients about current research in treatments and other related issues. I learned early on that I have a knack for explaining difficult science into simple terms, and my blog readers use that information to have informed conversations with their doctors.
And so, for someone who isn’t an oncologist, hematologist or biology researcher, I think I know quite a bit about follicular lymphoma.
But one thing I don’t know, and don’t care about, is what caused my cancer.
Oh, I know what causes my cancer in general. It’s an (14;18) translocation. Two of my chromosomes switched places, and when that happened, it made my body create too much of an enzyme that is supposed to talk to a protein that is supposed to tell some white blood cells they’ve done their job and it’s time to die.
But that doesn’t happen, and I have a bunch of white blood cells that won’t die. I know all of that.
However, I don’t know, and don’t care about, what caused my cancer.
There are no definitive answers about what causes follicular lymphoma. Some studies say it might be caused by an infection. Others say it might be from pesticides or other chemicals. Maybe from certain viruses. Or, like as many as two-thirds of cancers, it might just be from a spontaneous genetic mutation.
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