"Life with blood cancer and after cancer is tumultuous, filled with ups and downs," says 21-year-old, blood cancer survivor Tahlia. "But the support of the Leukaemia Foundation makes each step in this difficult journey easier."
Sixteen years ago, Tahlia's mum Sandra felt her world unravel when her four-year-old daughter was diagnosed with blood cancer. When Tahlia seemed tired and "out of sorts", Sandra didn't think much of it. But the doctor at Royal Children's Hospital in Herston called with shocking news.
"Her body and her marrow and her bones are packed with leukaemic cells. You need to come to Brisbane now."
What followed was a gruelling period of childhood blood cancer treatment, far away from home. Critically, Tahlia's family was supported by an experienced Leukaemia Foundation Blood Cancer Support Coordinator during this challenging time, guiding them through with emotional, financial and practical support.
"I know my parents felt like their lives were spiralling out of control at diagnosis and the help and services offered by the Leukaemia Foundation were like a safety net," says Tahlia. "In a devastating and chaotic time, the Leukaemia Foundation was the only place that provided mum with a sense of certainty and clarity.”
Childhood leukaemia treatment
Tahlia endured many rare side effects from her treatment, including life-threatening reactions to some of the chemotherapy drugs. In the first six weeks of treatment alone, she was admitted to ICU three times, fighting septicaemia, thrombosis in her brain and an anaphylactic response. Only snippets of memories from this time come back to Tahlia, something she's grateful for given everything she had to go through. "I only have a few solid memories, like how a steroid tasted or the anaesthesia smelled. Lots of my treatments involved butterfly needles and cannulas and I remember them being painful because some nurses struggled to find veins.
New challenges today
Although Tahlia doesn't remember much about her blood cancer diagnosis, she's still feeling its impact as a young adult today. Unfortunately, Tahlia's intense treatment as a child has led to new medical conditions.
"I've developed avascular necrosis in my ankle, which is where bone tissue dies due to a lack of blood supply. I've had to have resulting surgery and ongoing chronic pain management," explains Tahlia. "Another two drugs I was treated with have side effects that impact fertility in childhood cancer survivors."
"Even now, the late effects of my blood cancer treatment impact my life as it still stops me from participating in activities. I am learning that whilst my journey with blood cancer ended over a decade ago, my physical health continues to be an area of concern and potentially an area of my life that I have to cope with."
A new chapter of support
As Tahlia navigates long-term survivorship, Leukaemia Foundation support is still there for her. She's reconnected with Maryanne, the caring Blood Cancer Support Coordinator who has supported her family over the years.
"Maryanne and I have a special relationship because she always makes an effort to ask, to listen, to care and to help after every discussion we have. She remains in contact with me about university, my health, appointments that are coming up."
"I contact Maryanne when I have questions or am wondering about any late effects of my blood cancer treatment that I could experience. She makes it easy to talk about topics that are sometimes really difficult for others. She has a beautiful heart and is only a phone call away."
Make an impact with Dry July
Tahlia's experience speaks to the long-term impact of blood cancer, long past a diagnosis. By signing up for Dry July and raising funds, you'll ensure Tahlia and many others like her are empowered with long-term, life-changing support from an experienced Blood Cancer Support Coordinator.
"Despite the painful conditions that I live with currently, surviving my blood cancer taught me about strength, hope and resilience," says Tahlia.
"I am alive and my family is intact. The support we have been given not just throughout my treatment, but a decade after, is testimony to how involved and reliable the Leukaemia Foundation has always been." "Having the Leukaemia Foundation as part of our support system feels like our family always has someone to rely on, like our guardian angels.”
Go Dry this July and give Australians with blood cancer the life-changing support they need.