After defying the odds with blood cancer Paul Cronin has also faced the life-threatening coronavirus at the centre of the global pandemic.
The 62-year-old was diagnosed with a blood cancer called myeloma in February 2015, after five months of tests and uncertainty.
“I have the aggressive myeloma gene with an average life expectancy of two years,” explained Paul.
“I started chemotherapy straight away and had a stem cell transplant six months later.
“I nearly died twice in that time with fevers near 40 degrees.”
Paul has recovered from myeloma and maintains his health with a life-saving combination of drugs and therapies.
“I’ve made it to a little over five years now and my haematologist said if I got to 10, it'd be a miracle,” said Paul.
Paul has not let his disease hold him back and has travelled extensively since achieving remission.
He was on his way back from a trip to Antarctica, travelling through South America, when he first heard of the global pandemic.
“We had basically been off the grid since we left for the trip at the end of February,” explains Paul.
“We arrived back to Ushuaia, South America a few weeks later from Antarctica and people were saying "Don't you know there’s a pandemic,'? Everything's started to shut down and the borders are closing".
“A few days later it became clear I needed to get home. If I had been stuck there with the local healthcare I probably wouldn’t have lived.”
A cancelled flight, five stopovers, four days and $3,500 later Paul finally made it home to Adelaide.
“There was a lot of people coughing and spluttering at the airport and on the planes,” said Paul. “We had masks and everything, but not the professional ones.
“A couple of days later I woke up lethargic and had trouble breathing. I couldn’t get any air into my lungs no matter what I did,” said Paul.
“I went to the hospital and they took the swab. Twenty-four hours later I was told I had tested positive for COVID-19.”
Paul’s wife, Kathryn, and 23-year old son, Daniel, had already moved out with friends for 2 weeks. Paul had already put himself into the state's compulsory 14 day quarantine at home just in case.
Kathryn rang Paul's heamotoligst who arranged an ambulance 15 minutes later, which took him to hospital and he was immediately put into isolation. “From what I was told, I was the first person in South Australia with both coronavirus and myeloma.”
Paul was kept in hospital for 19 days, spending two days in intensive care.
“I was very sick, lost around 13 kilograms and I was pretty close to death's door,” Paul added
“The time in total isolation was tough. Only the doctors and nurses in gowns and masks could come in my room.
“Thank god I had a phone because I wasn’t able to see anyone else during that time.”
Paul had two negative coronavirus tests before being discharged from hospital in mid-April and is now focused on slowly building his strength.
“During the first two weeks at home, I was still crook, very weak and couldn't do much. But now I'm starting to walk again,” said Paul.
"I am now back on my myeloma maintenance protocol with regular blood tests."
“The coronavirus has affected my lungs, which we knew was one of the side effects of coronavirus. My breathing has got worse but I’m managing,” said Paul.
“It’s also affected my liver so I will be having regular ultrasounds to check on that and I’m keeping an eye on my weight as well.”