My journey began at the start of 2015. I had proposed to my now wife Kacey the previous year and we had all our wedding details for April that year finalised. Things were going well, I had landed a career at the Shell/VIVA Geelong refinery after ten years with GM Holden and we were halfway through renovating our country property.
One morning my then fiancé Kacey and I met at our Ministers house to go over details of our upcoming wedding. While waiting out the front of her house I stretched and noticed a lump at the base of my neck, just above my collarbone. Surprised I mentioned it to Kacey and without hesitation she rang up our local clinic and made me attend. To be honest if it were up to me I would have waited some time hoping it would go away. The next week or two involved an ultrasound then a needle biopsy. After the biopsy I was told I would find out in a week or so the outcome but when the phone rang a day after to come into the doctors clinic I knew deep down it was something more than a simple cyst.
When my GP told me the results that I had a type of lymphoma it didn’t really sink in, not until I heard the words “blood cancer” and “chemotherapy”. The next few weeks involved many scans, surgery to remove lymph nodes for testing and an appointment with Dr David Kipp at the Andrew Love Cancer Centre. The constant tiredness and weightloss that I had put down to shiftwork combined with regular night sweats now ticked all the boxes for symptons of lymphoma. There were some ups and downs at the start, finding out I had a 9cm mass in my chest was surprising but when a bone marrow biopsy revealed we had caught it early some relief was felt. The hardest day was when the test results came back that I actually had a rare type of T cell lymphoma, Anaplastic large cell Lymphoma. My life was about to be turned upside down and I was given a 50% chance of surviving it. Our plans of getting married and starting a family would have to work around 6 months of intensive chemo therapy (hyper C-VAD) followed by a stem cell transplant and radiation therapy. We brought our wedding forward to the start of March and cancelled our Cook Islands honeymoon. Instead of relaxing on a beach I was laying on a bed having a tube inserted in my chest that would deliver the lifesaving but sickening treatment for the next 6 months. Week long stints on Heath Wing 2 in the University Hospital Geelong and daily visits to Barwon Health’s Andrew Love Cancer Centre were now part of everyday life.
Some would have called us crazy but as starting a family would now only happen with the help of IVF we began the process at the same time. Halfway through my treatment a PET scan and a blood test would return the greatest news we could imagine. I was in remission and Kacey was pregnant with our future son Mac. The remaining months of my treatment were tough but knowing that I had to get better so that I could become a Dad drove me to accept whatever I had to do to achieve it.
I can never thank enough the team of Doctors, Nurses and Staff at the University Hospital Geelong and Andrew Love Cancer Centre for the care they gave me and still continue to, two years on. They made what seemed like a life sentence at the time feel like a bump in the road. I met and continue to meet many great people throughout my journey.
The most prominent was a great man Scott Beyer. Scott was also 29 when diagnosed with a blood cancer and had battled through the exact same intensive chemotherapy that I had to. He took it upon himself to coach me through my treatment, telling me what to expect and putting my mind at ease when I progressed through each stage. Something that no one else could do. His messages and reassurance kept me upbeat and took away the fear of the unknown. Scott was a previous Dry July ambassador and at the time I met him was fighting the toughest fight against a relapsed extremely rare T cell lymphoma. I was devastated when Scott lost his battle last year, leaving behind his wife Corrine and two young girls Ava and Sophie. His determination and will to fight while also helping others is a memory that will live on and will continue to encourage others to raise much needed funds for such a worthy cause. Witnessing Scotts fight is what drove me fundraise almost twenty thousand dollars last year and accept the role of ambassador for Dry July.
Every cent raised for the Andrew Love Cancer Centre is vital for treatment and care of so many people that it saves every day.