AML: “I didn’t know how we were going to manage”
“The one word I would describe for how I’m feeling now is proud.”
Aleigha’s blood cancer journey started back in July 2014 with a devastating acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) diagnosis.
Having to relocate her family from country-town Darkan to Perth was daunting for the then 24 year-old.
“Being in a remote area, having two small children, having to have treatment hours away from my home, I just didn’t know how we were going to manage,” says Aleigha.
“My partner Jayden was shearing nine months a year and then driving a tractor in the off-season so he really needed to carry on working.
“We were so relieved when we were told about the Leukaemia Foundation accommodation – it meant we were going to be able to keep our family together.”
Thanks to your support, Aleigha and her family ended up staying in one of our Perth apartments for almost a year while she underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.
“That time seems very distant to me now – but it was a struggle,” says Aleigha, “Having my two little guys there with me really got me through.”
“They are the sweetest boys, very loving, and I think that comes from been through such a tough time.”
“We also made friends with a family across the hall who have kids the same age. We now travel up to Geraldine once a year to catch up with them. Their dad has just made it through his treatment too so it feels like a real celebration each time we see each other, like we got through, we’re here another year.”
That sense of community was a great comfort for Aleigha throughout her treatment and the Leukaemia Foundation’s Blood Buddies program gave her another outlet to speak openly about her fears.
The phone based peer support program matched and connected those diagnosed with blood cancer with a trained volunteer who has had blood cancer.
“No one knows what you go through quite like another patient,” explains Aleigha. “At a time when your disease is defining you, those conversations are really the only ones where you can be completely honest about your feelings.
“Speaking to a loved one about those things can be upsetting so it’s really helpful to be able to air those things in neutral territory and share your experience with someone you know will relate.”
The next year Aleigha lent her voice to our Light the Night campaign in Western Australia to encourage families affected by blood cancer to walk together and mark their journey.
“That first Light the Night was very powerful, I was really struck by the stories of suffering and loss so I feel so lucky to have made it through happy and healthy,” says Aleigha.
“I wanted to inspire people to feel hope when they are in the darkness and show them that I am evidence that you can make it through the other side.”
Aleigha is always sure to maintain a positive attitude but there is one lasting effect of the disease that she still feels deeply.
“For me, the hardest part is not being able to have children any more as we would have liked to have more… just the choice being taken away from you is the worst thing,” says Aleigha.
Losing her mother in January, the importance of family has never rung more true and Aleigha has convinced her partner to move to the East coast to be closer to her hometown of Dunedin in New Zealand.
“It’s so great to be able to plan those type of things whereas before I would never plan ahead. I would always be anxious something would go wrong, I would get to sick or something and then I would be disappointed,” says Aleigha.
“But since being able to ween myself off the anti-rejection drugs 6 months ago I’ve felt a lot more confident about getting back to normal life. I’m back at work now too and feel like I’ve well and truly beaten the disease.
“The one word I would describe for how I’m feeling now is proud.”Last updated on July 10th, 2019
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