After everything I’ve been through, I can tell you this... medicine goes most of the way, but love makes the final difference between life and death. Your donation today, IS that difference. Please read my story so I can explain why.
Your world completely crashes in around you. Everything you know your life to be...goes.
That’s what it feels like when you hear the doctors tell you your husband’s not going to survive this. That in the end, he’s not going to make it. All you can do is refuse to believe them.
So that’s what I did.
My name’s Jennie. My husband John went into The Royal Melbourne Hospital for a do-or-die bone marrow transplant... and our Hundred Days began.
That’s what they call it – because when you have a bone marrow transplant, you have to spend one hundred days in close proximity to the hospital. There’s no other choice. And if you don’t make it through those hundred days, you don’t go home.
Fight Cancer Foundation’s accommodation center made all the difference to me and John. I honestly don’t know how we’d have coped without it. I think we’d have lost everything. And more importantly, my John might not have made it.
I say that with my hand on my heart.
Without Fight Cancer Foundation I would not have been able to stay in Melbourne, close to John, close to the hospital where he needed me. And without me by his side, John may not have survived.
I know that sounds dramatic, but I honestly believe it’s true. Because at the end of the day, love is the medicine that matters.
Our story began several years earlier though, when John was diagnosed with a very rare, life-threatening blood disorder called POEMS.
I won’t go into all the complicated science, but it causes some horrible symptoms, like nerve damage, tumours, liver enlargement, difficulty breathing, and skin discolouration. The worst thing is most people with POEMS don’t survive more than five years!
John is tough as old boots though. You know the kind. So his medical team threw everything at him. Radiotherapy, chemotherapy, antibody therapy and a stem cell transplant from his own bone marrow.
And it worked – he got better and grew stronger and went back to work.
He’s such a proud father and husband, who has always done all he can to help our family make memories.
John and I were on holiday celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary when he first had symptoms.
John’s been through so much suffering and pain. Every time they say he’s not going to make it, he just proves them wrong. That’s why he’s my hero.
For a while things were okay. But then his health began to deteriorate again. We went in to see his specialist for more blood test and waited for the results. As you’ve probably guessed, they were not good.
I remember me and John sitting in the car together when the phone call came through. The doctor said: “This is bad. And it’s urgent.”
John had secondary bone marrow disease, which leads very quickly to acute myeloid leukaemia, and you don’t survive that.
It felt like a death sentence. We both sat there in the car together with tears rolling down our faces. That’s the first time I ever saw John cry.
In that moment, in my heart, I really felt, “I’m going to lose my husband”.
I never let him know what I was thinking. Because it was my job to be strong, and keep him strong, so he could focus on beating this.
They told us the only option was a bone marrow transplant. It was that, or John would die. There was some good news though. John’s siblings stepped up right away as potential donors, and two of them were a perfect match.
What really threw me was discovering that I’d have to be extremely close to The Royal Melbourne Hospital – the best bone marrow transplant unit in the country for John’s disease – for the full hundred days.
My first thought was, “how the hell are we going to do this?”
You see, we live more than 1,200km from Melbourne. And we run a motel. A very hands-on business.
Can you imagine? How were we just going to pack up and relocate to Melbourne? Where were we going to stay? How could we pay for accommodation and run the business from so far away
I had absolutely no idea what we were going to do.
I remember ringing a phone number I was given by the bone marrow team. Something to do with accommodation.
I spoke to someone, but it was all a haze because I wasn’t really sure what I was ringing about. I just left my details.
A few days later I received a call from Vicki. I was hysterical. I still remember the feeling I had when I heard Vicki saying to me...
"It’s okay, Jennie. Your apartment is all ready for you. We’re just waiting for you to arrive.”
I couldn’t believe it. The relief I felt was huge.
That feeling, I can tell you, is priceless. Absolutely priceless.
When we arrived a few days later, Vicki came out the front to meet us, showed us where to park and took us up to the rooms. It was a two bedroom flat with a view over the street. It had its own kitchen, a beautiful big bathroom, a lounge room, two bedrooms, and a dining area. Everything you could possibly want.
I think that might have been the first moment since that awful phone call in the car when we got John’s results, that I really believed we could do this.
That’s why Fight Cancer Foundation accommodation centres are so important to people like us. It’s a home away from home. A base. A place where you can focus on the one you love and do what you have to do to help them survive.
I’m really pleased that I can share my story with you today, because I owe you and everyone who supports Fight Cancer Foundation a huge debt of gratitude.
As far as I’m concerned, you’re the reason John is still with me today, because you made it possible for love to take over when medicine had done all it could.
John was in hospital for three weeks after the transplant. Every day I cooked his meals and took them in to the hospital, so he could have the food he loved. Every day I was there by his side. Whatever he needed – I was there to do it.
That’s love – and it was only possible because of people like you.
Then when he left hospital and moved into the apartment with me, I was on hand for him 24/7.
If he was down, I could cuddle him and talk him through. If he was in pain, I could make him more comfortable. We talked together. Cooked together. We did everything together.
Again, that’s love. And I know in my heart it made the telling difference. There was nothing more medicine could do at that point. Love was the key. Love is what got John through his hundred days.
I could never have done it without Vicki and Fight Cancer Foundation. I know your donation today will do the same thing for someone else too.
To be honest with you, there were not many nights I didn’t cry. But never ever in front of John. Not ever. Because like I said before, it was my job to be emotionally strong for him, so that he had the physical strength to fight the disease.
That was my job. And that’s what I did.
I couldn’t have done it without Fight Cancer Foundation or support from amazing people like you.