A VETERAN firefighter is battling blood cancer – caused by taking part in a trial of a new treatment for his Crohn’s disease.
Gary Dall, who has spent almost 30 years saving lives, has an aggressive form of myelodysplasia (MDS) – a type of cancer where the bone marrow fails to make enough healthy blood cells.
The 49-year-old from Kirkcaldy, Fife, agreed to take part in a clinical trial to cure his Crohn’s disease seven years ago.
Gary says he was advised there was a low risk of developing cancer as a result of the treatment, which involved a transplant of his own stem cells, taking medication and undergoing chemotherapy.
Last year, doctors discovered the father-of-four’s blood count was low and bone marrow tests showed that he had MDS.
The only cure for Gary is for him is to have a second stem cell transplant which he can only have when he finds a suitable donor.
Now, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and blood cancer charity, The Anthony Nolen Trust are holding a public donor event at Kirkcaldy fire station next weekend to find a donor.
Gary, a group manager at Kirkcaldy station, was on medication for Crohn’s, a long-term condition which causes inflammation of the digestive system and currently affects 115,000 people in the UK.
Seven years ago, his medication for the disease stopped working.
Gary said today (thu): “I was offered a clinical trial and took it. The trial involved taking medication to increase my blood cells and then chemotherapy.
“They would have told me about the risks involved but with the state I was in, I can’t remember much.
“The risks for something like this are low.”
Speaking about the appeal for a second stem cell donor he added: “I’ve been told there’s a 60% chance I will find a match because I’m white and British so match a lot of people on the register but the more people that donate, the more will help save others lives too.”
Gary told his local paper this week: “It was just one of those things that a treatment for one disease led to me getting another. It’s not nice, but I’m just taking things as they come and hoping that a match can be found.
“When we first found out my family were shocked, and it has taken a bit of getting used to.”
After hearing that fan Gary was in need of a transplant, members from Raith Rovers Football team signed up to a national bone marrow register.
Kirkcaldy fire station will be holding a drive on September 16 to encourage members of the public to join a register to potentially become a bone marrow donor.
Healthy people, aged between 16 and 30 are eligible to register to become stem cell donors.
They will have to fill out a form and provide a saliva sample on the day but are advised not to eat or drink anything half an hour before attending.
There is currently no cure for Crohn’s disease but medics provide treatment to stop the inflammatory process, relieve symptoms and avoid surgery wherever possible.
Past research has shown that patients with Crohn’s disease of the small and/or large intestine have an increased risk of developing cancer at these areas.
Gary, who was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease 13 years ago, today revealed that the treatment puts 95% of patients into remission. Tragically, he has been left with bith Crohn’s and cancer.
He said the trial was offered via NHS Fife. Called Autologous Stem cell Transplantation International Crohn’s (ASTIC), the treatment has been undergone by crohn’s sufferers worldwide.
Today Gary said: “The medication I was given wasn’t working at all so I was told about about the ASTIC trial instead of having to get my bowels removed.
“It was an attempt to cure it. 95% of people over the world that have had it go into remission. Unfortunately I was one of the five percent that didn’t.”
Gary said his blood cancer is only curable if he gets a matching donor.
He added: “The drive isn’t just about me though, it’s about everyone else who could be saved by people getting registered as donors.”
Treatment would involve destroying Gary’s own bone marrow cells with chemotherapy before having stem cells from a donor fed into his bloodstream via a drip.
Amy Bartlett, Register Development Manager for Scotland at the Anthony Nolan Trust, said: “We were deeply saddened to learn about Gary’s diagnosis, and we will support him in every step of his search for a lifesaving donor.
“I’m looking forward to working with our close partners in the SFRS in Kirkcaldy to recruit even more potential lifesavers to the Anthony Nolan register – every person who signs up has the potential to help someone like Gary who’s in need of a stem cell transplant.
“We know from the amazing response to Ava Stark’s appeal for a lifesaving donor how brilliant the people of Fife, and Scotland, are in rallying behind someone in desperate need.”