Judd and Dionne's Story
Having to move to a new city with a son who has just been diagnosed with leukaemia, a disease you know nothing about – who are you going to turn for support?
This is the exactly what Dionne Carpenter faced when her 23-year-old son, Judd was diagnosed with leukaemia just two weeks before Christmas in 2018.
“There was no Christmas for us that year,” remembers Dionne.
“He had been sick with the flu for a while and was suffering from blood noses, bleeding gums and night sweats.
“Judd was always so fit and sporty and played a lot of footy, so to see him so lethargic and having to drag himself out of bed every day was a bit of a shock.”
Judd went to the doctors in their hometown of Broken Hill who put him through two courses of antibiotics.
When the second course still had no effect, Judd went back to the doctors for a third time with Dionne making sure he got a referral for a blood test.
“The leukaemia was picked up straight away by the blood test and he was flown to Adelaide to start treatment immediately,” explains Dionne.
“I knew nothing about leukaemia - it was a whole new world to us.”
“When they said those words, it didn’t sink in at first, it was overwhelming,” said Dionne.
In the new year, Judd and Dionne moved into the Leukaemia Foundation Patient Accommodation Village and stayed there for the next eight months while he underwent chemotherapy in Adelaide.
It was here that they met Leukaemia Foundation Blood Cancer Support Coordinators, Shelly and Andrew who supported them both throughout their blood cancer journey.
“As soon as we arrived the staff at the village couldn’t have been more helpful,” said Dionne.
“They came down and sat in the unit with us to talk us through everything, what to expect and what support is available.
“We would then often see Shelly up on the hospital ward and Andrew would call regularly to see if Judd or I needed anything.
Dionne and Judd were great members of the SA Village community. Despite the challenges of treatment and living away from home they always shared a smile, kind words and made time to listen and support other residents and patients. I don’t think they realise the impact they had on the people around them. They have a special place in the hearts of residents and staff here. We are so happy that Judd is living his best life post treatment.
Blood Cancer Support Coordinator
“You have no idea how valuable that type of support is.
“To simply have someone ask how you are and genuinely care – it made all the difference during the toughest time of our lives.”
Dionne also attended Caring for the Carer sessions run by Andrew at the village to meet others supporting a loved one in treatment.
“It was so important for me, both as a mother and carer, to have others to speak to and understand that you’re not alone in all this,” explains Dionne.
“It was my comfort zone being there with familiar faces who you know have your back.
“We would often go down to the office to see the Leukaemia Foundation staff whose door would always be open.”
Dionne and Judd kept each other strong, were task focused, and knew when they needed a break. It was great seeing Dionne taking time for herself as well as sharing her knowledge at the carers group.
Blood Cancer Support Coordinator
Judd came through his eight months of chemotherapy treatment with flying colours and they were able to return home in August 2019.
“He is doing amazing,” said Dionne. “If you saw him walking down the street you would never know he has had leukaemia.”
“He’s back at work as a qualified carpenter and was back at football training full time before the coronavirus hit.
“He’s just taking life head on now. His whole life flashed before him and he’s determined to make the most of every moment.
The family will never forget the kindness they were shown by Andrew, Shelly and all the staff at the Leukaemia Foundation
“It changed our whole family and we all look at life differently now,” said Dionne. “We just hope everyone can access that same support as we did - it was outstanding.”
Dionne will be taking part in Dry July this year to support more blood cancer support coordinators provide other families with vital support.
“Judd has said I better do it for him,” laughs Dionne. “It's a great opportunity to have a break the drink and support a cause we hold so dear.”