Most of us know the eccentric actor Gene Wilder and can probably name at least two of the films that he has been in. But did you know that Gene Wilder celebrated his 80th birthday this month? And, more interestingly, did you know that in 2005 he received a stem cell transplant to treat his relapsed Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?
Diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1999, Gene achieved complete remission following treatment. However, in 2005 he relapsed. He was told by his doctor that if he achieved remission this time around he would relapse again within six months. He was also told that a stem cell transplant was his only chance of ridding himself of the disease for good. 8 years on and Gene is still fighting fit.
Wilder described his experience on an American Chat Show two years after his successful stem cell transplant:
“This is not what you take from a fetus; this is taken from your own blood. They pump you up with a lot of chemo. It produces a lot of white cells and these little stem cells, which haven’t made up their minds whether to be red or white yet.
And when the doctor says you’re ready, you go in….. You sit in a chair. They hook you up, this arm, this arm. You watch television or read a book. They draw out the blood, go through a machine, extract stem cells, and then they put the blood back in, not the stem cells, just the blood.
And after three sessions like that, they took out seven million stem cells. Then you go into the hospital in isolation and they do full body radiation in the morning and late afternoon four days, and then heavy chemo for five days.
….. They give you a day of rest and then they come in with that bag of stem cells thawed out. They sing happy birthday, and they inject these new stem cells into your blood stream again. And you’re miserable for about 10 days. And they wait until those stem cells start to grow.”
About Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts in the B or T lymphocytes. There are more than 30 types of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma; Gene Wilder had a rare form. Correct diagnosis of the type and subtype of lymphoma is essential for effective treatment. Delay in diagnosis and treatment or a failure to get symptoms checked out properly could, in some cases, prove fatal.
Once a diagnosis is made, the progression of the disease is staged, depending on how far it has spread. These go from stage 1 diagnosis, where the lymphoma is present on one lymph node, area or organ, to stage 4 NHL, where the lymphoma is widespread throughout the body and outside of the lymph nodes to other organs, such as the bone marrow or central nervous system.
Drugs, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, can help to suppress any kind of cancer cells. However, if the patient relapses it is likely that the cancer cells will have developed resilience to chemotherapy. This is why, in many cases, a stem cell transplant is the preferred treatment for long lasting results. Gene Wilder received an autologous stem cell transplantation to treat his NHL. Depending on the type and progression of the disease, the bone marrow transplantation for NHL will be either allogeneic (where matching cells taken from a donor are transplanted) or autologous (where the patient’s own bone marrow or stem cells are used).
Making The Decision
Being diagnosed with cancer is tough, frightening and confusing. There are so many questions to be answered and so many decisions to make. To make things more stressful, these decisions are, literally, life or death. The Transplant Team Bone Marrow Transplant Mexico has successfully treated many patients in their transplant center for a range of treatable conditions. If you would like to know more about how a bone marrow transplant (or stem cell transplant) could help you or a loved one, contact us for a free, no obligation consultation.