My name is Andrew and I’m a drugs cheat!
OK, it’s not quite on the scale of Lance Armstrong’s confessional on Oprah, but I have to come clean.
I’m a blood doper.
I’ve heard and read a lot about blood doping over the past few years, how endurance athletes are meant to have gained an unfair advantage by using transfusions to increase their red blood cells.
It works like this: The body uses more oxygen during exercise. Oxygen is important because it breaks down glucose and turns it into energy. It attaches itself to haemoglobin, which is found inside red blood cells. The purpose of blood doping is to increase the quantity of haemoglobin, which then carries the oxygen to muscles. Athletes eventually exhaust their oxygen reserves so blood dopers increase their levels of red blood cells.
One of three main ways that athletes do this is through blood transfusions.
Thankfully my transfusions have been done properly via the NHS.
Oh yes, and I’m not a professional athlete. Or come to think about it, not even an amateur athlete.
But I can certainly vouch for the amazing effects that a bit of new blood can do for the body.
After my last round of chemo (two and a half weeks ago), I was put on twice-weekly blood tests to check my various blood counts – white cells, red cells, haemoglobin, neutrophils etc.
I had my suspicions things weren’t 100%. I was much more tired than usual. I felt dizzy – quite severely sometimes – every time I stood up. I was out of puff climbing the 18 stairs in our house. And I almost passed out playing a wee game of tag with kids at a 5th birthday party last week.
So it came as no surprise to find the haemoglobin levels were low last week.
Normally they pick up again, but not enough for me this time so it was into the Macmillan Cancer Ward 1 at the Western General on Wednesday morning for two pints of the red stuff.
For anyone who hasn’t had a transfusion, it’s a really simple process (though I can’t vouch for urgent transfusion to replace blood loss). Just a needle in the arm, attached to a drip, then sit around for 2-4 hours per pint bag as it slowly seeps into your body.
I’m not saying that I skipped out of the hospital a new man, but the dizziness was gone by last night, the breathlessness as good as disappeared, and today I did a fairly fast paced 5km walk in the sunshine feeling as good as I have done in ages.
Talking of 5km, did I mention I was doing a 5km in two weeks’ time to raise money for the Maggie’s Cancer Centre? I did? Well sorry, time to mention it again!
On Sunday, March 6, whilst many folk will be dining out for Mother’s Day, I’ll be dragging my old limbs around the Meadows in between my chemo rounds 5 and 6.
A huge and heartfelt thanks to those who have very kindly sponsored me already. I am truly humbled by your generosity for such a good cause.
If anyone else wants to make a contribution, my online donation page is at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/AndrewSlorance
Hopefully I won’t need another blood transfusion to manage it (though actually having one in advance would be a big help!)
And fingers crossed I don’t get disqualified for being a blood doping drugs cheat!