Leukaemia: It changed everything
“Jacob won’t stop asking when he can go to school”
At just four years old Jacob has showed more strength and resilience than many of us do in a lifetime, beating leukaemia not just once but twice.
In early 2016, Jacob’s mum Earlene noticed the then two year old was getting a lot of bruises, looking very pale and tiring much faster than his brother and sister.
While taking him for his flu shot Earlene expressed her concerns to the GP who felt it was serious enough to send them to hospital, one hour’s drive away from their home in Blackwater, Queensland, for blood tests.
“Things moved so quickly from there,” remembers Earlene, “Suddenly they’re talking about us flying to Brisbane the next day, and I was there with my three kids thinking, ‘What’s happening?’”
After a sleepless night not knowing how long they would be gone, Earlene and Jacob got on a plane to Brisbane, leaving her husband Don to care for their other young children, Matthew and Erin.
“I was just praying there had been a mistake,” says Earlene. “That someone had got the blood tests results wrong. That they’d tell us we could go home.”
At the same time – deep inside – she was preparing herself for the worst.
Jacob was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), a rare type of blood cancer that can be difficult to treat successfully.
“I just had no idea how we were going to survive being so far from home and with another two children to care for.
“When we were offered accommodation support by the Leukaemia Foundation we were so relieved and seeing the village for the first time we were blown away by the beautiful facilities.
“Don, Matthew and Erin made the 8-hour drive down to join us, we were so happy we were going to be able to stay together and just focus on supporting Jacob.”
Thanks to your support, the family stayed at ESA Village for the duration of his treatment, a total of 8 months, with Jacob undergoing numerous rounds of chemo and then the critical bone marrow transplant.
Luckily, Jacob’s brother Matthew was a 100% match and a suitable bone marrow donor.
“The hardest days were the ones Jacob had to remain in isolation post-transplant,” explains Earlene. “He was stuck in that hospital room for nearly 3 months and was only able to wave to Matthew and Erin through the door.”
“He was a different child during that time. For a mother there is nothing worse seeing your child struggle and have their spirit taken away like that.”
The transplant was seemingly successful and the family were able to return home after Jacob had recovered.
But their joy was short-lived with a blood test just a week later showing the leukaemia had returned.
It was back down to Brisbane for Earlene and the three children with Don having no choice but to remain in Blackwater to work and support the family.
“The relapse was devastating, but we took comfort in knowing the Leukaemia Foundation would be there for us again,” says Earlene.
“You just don’t understand how much that support means to people like us – it’s everything at a time when all you can think about is getting your child well again.”
Earlene and her family are so grateful for your generosity that helps families like theirs stay together in these difficult times. And for Jacob, having his brother and sister by his side helped get him through the long months of scary treatment.
Jacob went through the same gruelling treatment regimen receiving his second bone marrow transplant from his brother Matthew.
The family returned to ESA Village for another 8 month stint.
“Erin basically grew up here. She calls the village, ‘small home’, and big home is in Blackwater,” laughs Earlene.
This time the treatment looks to have stuck and the family have been back in Blackwater since May.
“We were thrilled to be able to come home and be back with daddy, the most important thing is getting the kids back into a routine and making sure we spend as much time as possible together as a family,” says Earlene.
Earlene and Jacob still have to travel down to Brisbane every few weeks for blood tests.
“I try not to let the anxiety get to me but already having relapsed once before it just makes your mind go crazy with the possibility that it could return,” says Earlene.
“We always make sure to drop into the village when we are down and the Leukaemia Foundation has been so generous in getting us short-stay accommodation when we are in Brisbane for blood tests.
“The support staff at the village know how to calm me down in the lead up to the test, the girls are so comforting and make sure we are well looked after.”
For now Earlene is keeping a close eye on Jacob.
“We are just staying around home while the flu season passes. I’m much too nervous yet to let him out playing with a lot of other kids.”
“But Jacob is lucky to have his brother and sister who love him just as much as they annoy him,” says Earlene.
“He is starting to find it hard I think though as he sees his big brother going to school so asks when he can go.”
“In the New Year hopefully he will be well enough to go and he can start doing the things that any other typical 4 year old boy wants to do.”
Developed by the Leukaemia Foundation in consultation with people living with a blood cancer, Leukaemia Foundation support staff, haematology nursing staff and/or Australian clinical haematologists. This content is provided for information purposes only and we urge you to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis, treatment and answers to your medical questions, including the suitability of a particular therapy, service, product or treatment in your circumstances. The Leukaemia Foundation shall not bear any liability for any person relying on the materials contained on this website.