SOUTH KINGSTOWN - When Bud McLeod was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia in 2006 he was told he had only five to 10 more years to live. Now, rather than sitting idly by, McLeod is trying to find a cure with the help of others like him.
McLeod is starting the first Leukemia and Lymphoma Caring and Sharing Group in South County, hoping it can be an outlet for other cancer patients to discuss their prognosis and what can be done to help them beyond what the medical community has already done.
“It’s an attempt to arrive at those mysterious cures for a disease that the medical and scientific communities have not come up with answers yet for,” McLeod said. “I hope to meet and discuss problems they have with the disease that they didn’t have before, what’s their prognosis today and suggestions on what they should be doing to get it resolved.”
According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow, the spongy center of bones where blood cells are formed. The disease develops when blood cells produced in the bone marrow grow out of control. About 43,050 people were expected to develop leukemia last year. The type of leukemia McLeod has, CLL, is the most common type found in adults. In CLL, the DNA of a B cell is damaged, so that it cannot produce antibodies. Additionally, B cells grow out of control and accumulate in the bone marrow and blood, where they crowd out healthy blood cells.
“When people think of cancer they think of a lump on the body, but [leukemia] is a cancer of the blood,” McLeod said.
Lymphoma is the name for a group of blood cancers that develop in the lymphatic system. The two main types are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). In 2010, about 628,415 people were living with lymphoma or were in remission. This number includes about 153,535 people with Hodgkin lymphoma and 474,880 people with NHL.
In 2006, McLeod was sent to South County Hospital for what he thought was a simple case of pneumonia. Yet, rather than give him aspirin and send him on his way home, doctors told McLeod that his white blood cell count was increasing. He had leukemia. He’d have to undergone chemotherapy and only five to 10 more years to live.
“If 10 is the normal count of white blood cells, I had 99. My spleen enlarged. The only way to cope with that is chemotherapy. It was oral therapy with 5 to 6 days of pills,” McLeod said.
However, despite the treatment, the chemotherapy did not help McLeod. Rather than cure him, the treatment caused McLeod’s blood to thicken and he was subscribed Lovenox, a blood thinner. With Lovenox, McLeod had to puncture his stomach twice a day. After Lovenox, McLeod was switched to Coumadin, another blood thinner used to prevent heart attacks.
“[Coumadin] was so controlling on what you can’t or can’t eat so after three months I said I couldn’t do six months on this. I said I’ll take aspirin and that’s what I’ve been doing,” McLeod said.
Using aspirin, doctors told McLeod that he must get a blood report every two weeks. Now, he said triumphantly he’s only getting a blood report once a month.
With a glint in his eye and hope in his spirit, McLeod hopes to help others like him. He has even recruited a family friend, Judith Jenison, who was diagnosed with lymphoma to help start the caring and sharing group in South County. For the purpose of sharing, comforting and uplifting other victims, McLeod said South County Hospital has offered their best meeting room for the group starting in September. In the meantime, McLeod said the group can meet at his home or wherever is convenient for the group.
“Most of us are connected to an oncologist who is monitoring our progress and coming to the rescue when things get out of hand,” McLeod said. “Some of us have a nutritionist who is trying to provide us with healthy ideas that may modify the severity of our disease, because nobody has provided us with the cure.”
For more information on the Leukemia and Lymphoma Caring and Sharing Group in South County, contact Bud McLeod at firstname.lastname@example.org  or 783-8852.