Don’t let aggressive blood cancers tear apart families like Tracey’s.
Publish Date: 23/6/2016
Every time I went to hospital for treatment my littlest one would ask "Mummy, are you going to come back?" Mum of three, Tracey, was diagnosed with AML in 2010.
When Tracey was told she had Leukaemia, her first thought was: “What will happen to my family?”
That’s what I find most heart breaking about blood cancers: they never affect just one person; they tear whole families apart.
Six years ago, Tracey’s life looked perfect. She had a loving and supportive husband, three kids she adored, a great job and an active life.
Then, in just 24 hours, she went from enjoying a family holiday to lying in a hospital bed – three hours away from her young children.
Doctors began Tracey’s treatment straight away by inserting a large tube into her neck to deliver medication. They told her she’d be lucky to live more than five years.
Tracey was diagnosed with AML (acute myeloid leukaemia) at 2:20am on New Year’s Day, 2010. She was high risk and needed a bone marrow transplant as soon as possible, followed by three rounds of chemotherapy.
But living in country Victoria made treatment even more difficult.
Tracey would have to go to Melbourne for long periods at a time – away from home, away from the young family that depended on her. Leukaemia was, quite literally, pulling her family apart.
Tracey fought back tears as she told us how the anxiety of separation affected her youngest daughter, who was only two at the time:
Whenever she came to see me in hospital she didn’t know me and didn’t want much to do with me.
She saw an old photo of me with hair and said it was her aunty. That was hard, having your two-year-old not really know you.
Tracey’s overwhelming urge to be there for her family helped her build up a special toughness that got her through her treatment. She remembers:
Negative thoughts would creep in: ‘I don’t want to do this’. But then you remember it’s for your kids.
I started to think what I was going to miss…deb balls, licences, small trivial moments that are so important. And I wanted my two-year-old to know who her mummy was.”
Stories like Tracey’s always affect me because I know that better understanding of blood cancers could reduce so much pain and suffering.
More research will lead to more effective treatments, which in turn will mean less time in hospital. For young mothers like Tracey, time at home with family is priceless, and has a special power of its own.
The Leukaemia Foundation urgently needs your help to keep building on the momentum of research that is starting to uncover better treatments for patients like Tracey.
Current treatment has left Tracey with on-going health issues, like osteoporosis, necrosis of the bones, impaired lung function and even impaired vision.
Her hope is that one day soon, aggressive blood cancers like AML will be treatable with a drug rather than a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy.
Tracey would love to be able to just take a pill that would fight her blood cancer while leaving her well enough to be the active, happy mum she’s always been.
That day could come sooner rather than later, thanks to tireless work of talented people like Associate Professor Mark Dawson and his team at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
Talking with Mark, it’s easy to understand his passion and enthusiasm for two recent breakthroughs into the treatment of AML. He gave me a real sense that research is moving forward more quickly than ever thanks to the Leukaemia Foundation and supporters like you.
Mark explained to me that the first breakthrough is being able to grow AML stem cells in a laboratory dish:
This gives us unprecedented access and insight into how they work. So we can find faster, better ways to target and destroy them. It’s great news for the 900 Australians who will be diagnosed with AML each year.
The second breakthrough is just as significant: Mark says he and his team have confirmed once and for all that resistance to cancer therapies emerge from AML stem cells:
AML is a leukaemia that has long needed a major breakthrough to improve the future of all AML patients. These advancements in our understanding have opened the door to new approaches that, I hope, could one day make bone marrow transplants a thing of the past.
It would just be unthinkable if the Leukaemia Foundation couldn’t continue to fund this ground-breaking research.