How would you feel if you had to suddenly leave your family and home?
Please spend a few minutes to read Paul’s story. By the time you have finished, you will understand how important your life-saving gift is to someone diagnosed with cancer and fighting for life.
In March 2012, Paul was feeling low in energy and a little out of breath. He went for a health check and was not surprised when told his blood pressure was high. Having changed careers from being a physically active manager of a beef producing property to teaching, Paul rationalised that his less active lifestyle was to blame.
However, when Paul’s blood test results came in they revealed a lower than normal red cell and platelet count. He was immediately referred to a haematologist in Melbourne. Terrifyingly, the outcome of that unexpected trip was not what Paul, his wife Jane or their children wanted to hear…
Paul was diagnosed with aplastic anemia. This rare condition damages the bone marrow, shutting down production of blood cells needed to carry oxygen around the body. So, feeling unfit and breathless began to make sense.
Paul’s blood count was so low he needed urgent blood transfusions and a bone marrow transplant. Life for Paul and his family changed in an instant. Thankfully one of Paul’s six siblings, his sister Diane, was a compatible donor. In order to access the life-saving treatment Paul needed to relocate to Melbourne which was some 400 kilometres from home. The prospect of being separated from family at this critical time was frightening for the family and they wondered how they would cope.
During the many long months of treatment and recovery, Paul’s family stayed at our accommodation centre, within walking distance of his treating hospital.
“The support of my family through those difficult days made all the difference,” said Paul.
Fight Cancer Foundation’s accommodation centres provide safe, supportive communities for each family battling cancer. Our support also relieves the worry of finding accommodation close to treating hospitals and the financial burden often faced by families. Giving families the freedom to face cancer without unnecessary stress can be so important for them. Paul underwent a relatively smooth bone marrow transplant, before moving into our accommodation centre with his family to wait the required 100 days post-transplant recovery period.
Paul finally returned home in December 2014, only to return to hospital shortly after with a severe case of graft-versus-host disease. The disease was attacking his vital organs, stomach and bowel. Paul’s health deteriorated dramatically and his prognosis was bleak. Fortunately, Fight Cancer Foundation was again able to provide his family a safe haven at our accommodation centre so they could be by their husband, and father’s side.
As Paul’s life was slipping away, his doctors asked if he wanted to live on a machine… he said no.
Paul recalls waking and seeing his three children at his bedside in the intensive care unit. “I really believe that the moment I realised my children were there, maybe to say goodbye that I somehow found the strength to fight.”
His recovery was slow and painful. At one stage his weight plummeted to just 40kg and he was unable to walk or feed himself. Paul spent most of 2015 in rehabilitation, learning to walk and live independently. Throughout his ordeal, we continued to support Paul’s wife and children as he slowly regained his life. In fact, our accommodation centre became the new family home.
Sadly, Paul’s story is just one of many and shows how vital having your loving family by your side is when faced with a battle for your life.