Sunday, October 05, 2008

My FIL is starting treatment for Waldenstrom's

Apparently, he got it in Vietnam..from Agent Orange. You can read this long description...but bottom line...his blood thickens and he feels dizzy, slow, and his memory suffers. Yes, he is 79 years old...but I can tell you that I see a huge change in his behavior in just the last 6 months. He has always been so with it...and he is a retired Lt. Colonel.

My husband is going with him next week for his first two treatments...and I am happy for that. It is hard to see your parents get sick...but it is so very rewarding to spend time with them when they are ill. I am so greatful that I was there to administer my mom's chemo....and to spend those months with her.

What Is Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia?

Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia (WM) is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) that produces large amounts of an abnormal protein (called a macroglobulin). Another name for WM is lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma. This condition used to be called "Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia," so some people refer to it as "Waldenstrom's."
The lymphoma cells in WM grow mainly in the bone marrow, where they can crowd out the normal cells that make the different blood cells. This can lead to low levels of red blood cells (called anemia), which can cause people to feel tired and weak. It can also cause low numbers of white blood cells, which makes it hard for the body to fight infection. The amount of platelets in the blood can also get low, leading to increased bleeding and bruising.

Lymphoma cells can also grow in organs like the liver and spleen, causing these organs to swell and leading to abdominal pain. The macroglobulin that is made by the lymphoma cells can cause other problems as well.

Lymphoid tissue and the immune system

Lymphoid tissue contains several types of immune system cells that work together to resist infections. Lymphoid tissue also reacts to transplanted tissues (such as blood transfusions or organ transplants) from other people and is involved in fighting some types of cancer.

Lymphoid tissue is found in lymph nodes, which are pea-sized collections of immune system cells found in the underarm area, in the groin, on the sides of the neck, inside the chest, and inside the abdomen. Lymphoid tissue is found in the bone marrow as well as other organs such as the thymus (found behind the chest bone and in front of the heart), the spleen (on the left side of the abdomen next to the stomach), and the tonsils and adenoids. Lymphoid tissue is also scattered throughout the body within other systems such as the digestive system and respiratory system.

Lymphocytes (lymph cells) are the main cell of lymphoid tissue. There are 2 types of lymphocytes: T cells and B cells. B cells respond to an infection by changing into a different type of cell called a plasma cell. Plasma cells make the antibodies (also called immunoglobins) that help the body attack and kill disease-causing germs such as bacteria. The main job of T cells is to help direct the immune response, but they also can directly kill invading infections.

Cells responsible for Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia

Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia is a cancer of the B cells. The cancer cells in people with Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia are similar to those of 2 other types of cancer: multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Multiple myeloma is considered a cancer of plasma cells and non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of lymphocytes. The cells of WM have features of both plasma cells and lymphocytes and are called lymphoplasmacytoid. These cells produce large amounts of an abnormal type of antibody protein (immunoglobulin M, or IgM) that causes many of the symptoms of Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia, including excessive bleeding, problems with vision, and nervous system problems.

We'll keep you updated on the progress.


Nanny Goats In Panties said...

Wow! I'm so sorry you and your hubby (and even more so, your FIL) are going through this. So stressful for you, I'm sure. I'd never heard the term Waldenstrom's before, thanks for the little education.

Hahn at Home said...

Wow, Mel - I hope the treatment goes well. He's a nice old guy and I would love to see him have a few more happy years, ya' know?

pietro_ceccano said...

I found your posting about your FIL being treated for WM. If you're not aware of it already, there is a large international support group and research foundation that can be a great source of information and support as your family deals with how best to care for your FIL. You might want to check out their website at

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