“Our happiness bubble suddenly popped”: Giles Purbrick’s blood cancer diagnosis, days after becoming a father
In January 2020, Giles and wife Jacqui welcomed their baby daughter into the world. But just days later, Giles was hit with a shock blood cancer diagnosis that turned everything on its head.
After a few years of failed IVF and other treatments, Giles Purbrick and his wife Jacqui were thrilled to finally become parents after giving birth to their “golden child” on New Year’s Day in 2020.
“I had recently started a new job and was excited about pursuing fresh career opportunities. I’d also just completed the Melbourne marathon. So, on the face of it, life was good and full of promise,” Giles says.
But a week later, Giles and Jacqui experienced first-hand just how quickly and unexpectedly blood cancer can rock a family – and change everything.
“I was experiencing intense pain almost everywhere, having strange and worrying reactions (including anaphylaxis), night sweats and felt extremely fatigued,” Giles recalls. Amazingly, Giles completed the 2019 Melbourne Marathon while experiencing these kinds of symptoms.
“After Madeleine Mae Purbrick was born, we had a week of bliss. And then I was diagnosed about a week later. It was a massive shock, but it also explained the weird symptoms I had been experiencing that I’d put down to accelerated old age.”
After returning from a run, Giles had trouble breathing and immediately called an ambulance to take them to hospital. His initial blood tests and x-rays highlighted an issue with his blood, which was the first warning sign for Giles.
When he returned to his hospital bed and saw several doctors and nurses standing around it, he knew something was wrong.
It was then that he was told he had leukaemia, and Giles had to make the phone call to his wife – who was at home with Maddie at the time – to tell her the crushing news. “Our happiness bubble had suddenly popped,” says Giles.
In addition to a blood cancer diagnosis, the challenges continued to mount for the Purbrick family.
“The timing of the lockdowns and the pandemic was not ideal. It was a very stressful period juggling a newborn, feeling really unwell and going through band-aid treatment as more effective treatment was delayed due to uncertainty around the pandemic.”
“Finances were also a significant issue. We were on my single income at that point with uncertainty around income continuity. It was also a very isolating time. I hardly left the house other than visits to Peter Mac.”
It was then that Giles and his family got the helping hand that they desperately needed – after being referred to the Leukaemia Foundation by a haematologist at Peter Mac.
“After making contact I was quickly put in touch with the Leukaemia Foundation’s Blood Cancer Support Coordinators who were an immense help. They were always very familiar with my personal circumstances and played a massive role through the twists and turns of my patient journey. I feel incredibly grateful to these amazing people.”
In January 2022 – two years after he was diagnosed – Giles entered remission and has since aimed to return to work full time.
Despite being in remission, Giles continued to receive further guidance and support from the Leukaemia Foundation’s Blood Cancer Support Coordinators. They helped him navigate long-term survivorship and a long-awaited return to work.
“The team was fantastic in helping me navigate these decisions and provided invaluable advice. The Leukaemia Foundation and the Blood Cancer Support Coordinators play such an important function in the blood cancer ecosystem. They were always ready and available to take a call, answer questions or point me towards information or useful resources.”
With a weakened immune system, Giles decided to fully focus on his health, with an aim to return to work in the middle of 2023.
“In a digital age that can sometimes feel isolating and impersonal, the Leukaemia Foundation’s Blood Cancer Support Coordinators provide the critical human touch to support, listen, guide and galvanise blood cancer patients.”