A guest post from my lovely friend Erin, who is not a blogger, but I’m actually starting to think she should be. Grab the tissues for this one, my lovelies, you will need them. Oh, and if you’re getting deja vu, don’t be alarmed – you may have read this over at Just Me a week or so ago.
We had been married for 10 months when Heath got sick.
He was down in Puckapunyal on an army promotion’s course; he’d been away from home a few months at this stage. He started to get flu like symptoms and then he got sicker and sicker and the Army medical centre realised they didn’t know what was going on so they sent him to St Vincent’s hospital in Melbourne. All it took was one experienced Doctor to look at him to know it wasn’t normal to be so sick in a short amount of time.
I was at work when he called me and said it didn’t look good, they didn’t know yet exactly but they knew it was bad. A lovely Dr spoke to me and said I should come down to Melbourne as soon as I could. So my darling father and I were on the earliest flight the very next day. We got to the hospital as soon as we could but they had taken Heath for a procedure, we waited hours and hours for him to come back. I still hadn’t seen him, then they wheel him in and my dad says quickly, “he looks awful Erin”. He did. The procedure they had done wasn’t exactly the right one…they had removed a tonsil instead of a lymph node so Heath was booked in for bone marrow biopsy and then another lymph node biopsy.
On Saturday the 17th of September 2005 we got the news that changed us forever….It was leukaemia, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. ALL is the most common childhood cancer and very rare in young adults. He had a massive tumour on his chest and in his neck. The estimated about a kilo’s worth all up.
When we got the news I remember saying to Heath and my dad “Haven’t we been through enough”. Heath was so strong only with a tear in his eye he said “I’ll be ok I’m tough”. The hospital was kind enough to let me sleep in the room with him and we held hands all night that night. Him in bed and me in the recliner. I never wanted to let him go.
We were eventually allowed to come back to Sydney where we were met by an Army ambulance and taken straight to Westmead hospital. Heath was to start treatment the next day. First he had to donate a little piece of himself and an insurance policy for having children. They didn’t know how the chemo and radiation would affect him.
Then began the drugs, so toxic the nurses wore thick gloves and goggles and gowns.
So toxic I was told not to hold him too much.
So toxic that it ate away healthy cells as well as the cancer cells.
He was in hospital for weeks with the first round of chemo. Day after day of drugs. He lost his hair and lots of weight. Another bone marrow biopsy and wonderful news they had got him into remission!!!! But he still had to continue on the treatment protocol that was to last 2 years. He ended up with strong chemo as well as radiation on his brain (because that tends to be where ALL relapses, in the brain fluid); he had spinal taps where chemo was injected directly into his spine.
One drug caused blood clots and one day this caused a major problem…Heath was in the bathroom and I heard him scream in pain. I ran in to find him having a full on seizure on the floor. I rang the ambulance and he was taken to hospital where he had another seizure and ended up not being able to use his left leg for weeks. This drug had caused a clot in his brain. But the fighter that he is he learned to walk again and 8 months after his diagnosis he went back to work. He was still having chemo and had regular hospital visits but he wanted to prove he would be ok.
September 17 2007 he was done with chemo!!We were lucky enough to fall pregnant naturally in December 2007. He could not get the all clear though. 3 monthly blood tests till September 2010 would be a constant reminder of his illness. 17th of September 2010 will be it!!! 5 years since diagnosis…virtually cured and a survivor!!!
Wanting to prove to himself he is well, Heath is going to say a big F*CK YOU to cancer by kayaking 800kms of the Murray River. …by himself!! 3 weeks alone with the river. He is raising money for the Leukaemia foundation that does fantastic work in the blood bone cancer community. My Heafy is my hero and I am one lucky woman to have him alive and well.
See, I told you to get your tissues. Click on the button below to check it out and support Heath Kayak For Cancer- he’s kicking some ass!!