"I rang to say I was on my way to hospital because I’ve been told I’ve got leukaemia."

"I needed help to rebuild my body and mind." David's Story

11 May 2022

David, his wife Amanda and their family, generously agreed to share their story, to help us with our appeal to raise funds for the Cancer Wellbeing Centre and Research Hub at the Canberra Region Cancer Centre.

"When I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia at Canberra Hospital, I thought I might have a few months of chemo then be back at work.

But the haematologist told me my leukaemia was 100% incurable... unless I had a stem cell transplant. And it would be brutal. I focused on taking things step by step, but I ended up in very dark places.

The treatment had to kill my stem cells so they could be replaced with the healthy cells my brother had donated. It also killed all the fast-dividing cells in my body and I was in agony. I couldn’t talk, swallow, eat or drink.

The good news was the graft of stem cells had started to grow new blood cells. Everything was going to plan.

Then things started to go downhill - fast. I was so sick there are entire weeks I can’t remember, I was in and out of consciousness. Eventually the doctors told my wife Amanda ‘we’ve never seen a case like this before.’

A multitude of tests couldn’t find any clear answers so I was given the high dose steroids that treat graft versus host disease. This in itself could have killed me.

But within hours I’d turned a corner. I could sit up, eat, talk. It was my 42nd birthday and what a gift I’d been given, the gift of my life.

Being told I was in remission and the transplant had worked, Amanda and I were thrilled. But where I thought I’d be fighting fit almost straight away, my progress was agonisingly slow.

I lost so much weight, I was eating McDonald’s every day with my nutritionist’s approval and in one month I only put on half a kilo.

I had such bad back pain, it used to take me a full minute to roll over in bed.

Struggling back to real physical activity took years, with Pilates, personal training, I’m back playing soccer and bushwalking. We even climbed Sydney Harbour Bridge last year.

We keep saying to each other how lucky we are. But I know I wouldn’t be able to do nearly as much now, if I hadn’t had help to rebuild my body and my mind. That’s one reason why we need a Cancer Wellbeing Centre in Canberra.

The Wellbeing Centre will be an amazing place for people going through treatment and recovery to really focus on themselves and what they need to do to get well again. It’s somewhere you’ll be able to run into other patients and share stories and experiences and get tips. That can really help.

I feel so grateful for my care at Canberra Hospital, I couldn’t speak highly enough of everyone involved, but it was a tough road.

You get to a point where you think, ‘Now I’m going to start living my life again’ then realise you can never go back to your old life.

So taking care of your mental health after cancer is hugely important too and that’s another way the Wellbeing Centre will support people.

You can help people like me step through the challenges of cancer... and not just survive but thrive.

Please show your support for the Cancer Wellbeing Centre at Canberra Region Cancer Centre – the first in the ACT – to enhance treatment, research, complementary therapies and emotional support for patients and their families.

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