Select language:  
1800 620 420
Close menu

Changes in your blood

A booklet for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and their families

Book One
Text & Illustrations by Simone Thomason
Cover artwork by Navada Currie

You can read this booklet below, or download it here.

Title and front cover
Changes in your blood

A booklet for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and their families

Book One

Text & Illustrations by Simone Thomason
Cover artwork by Navada Currie


The author sincerely acknowledges and pays respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders and Traditional Owners, past, present and emerging, on whose land these booklets have been developed and gives thanks for their on-going willingness to share their knowledge and wisdom.


Changes In Your Blood, A Booklet for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and their families, is book one in a series of five educational booklets. The booklets are primarily visual teaching tools, designed to meet the comprehension needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, diagnosed with a blood cancer, and their families. This resource may also benefit all patients, including cultural and linguistically diverse people groups whose main language is not English.

Disclaimer: This booklet is not intended to provide or be a replacement for medical advice. Text and illustrations © Simone Thomason, 2020. Cover artwork © Navada Currie, 2022. ISBN:978-0-6486980-0-5

Acknowledgements: The author would like to express sincere thanks to patients and families, co-workers, colleagues, friends and family whom have supported and provided encouragement throughout the compilation of these booklets. In particular those whom took time out of their busy schedules to review, critique and provide feedback on the booklets at various stages of their development, including: Dr Ferenc Szabo; Dr Akash Kalro; Dr Tina Noutsos; Hayley Williams; Barbara Smith; Robyn Jones; Barbara Cox; Cheryl Hooper; Mary Copp; Jean Murphy; Helen Kennon; Mally McLellan; Joyce Crombie; Tania Wakefield; Myrtle Weldon; Lesley Versteegh; and my husband, Martin Thomason.

The Leukaemia Foundation uses real-life stories to provide education, inspiration and hope. If you have an experience of blood cancer you’d like to share, please email [email protected]


5….Have you been feeling sick lately?

6….How the health clinic can help?

7….What are cells?

8….What jobs do blood cells do in your body?

10….Why do doctors take a blood test?

12….What jobs do other cells do in your body?

17-21….Other tests you may need

23….Common questions

24….Abbreviations and references

5. Have you been sick lately?


Have you been sick lately?

Have you felt lumps in your neck, under your arms or inside the top of your legs?

Have you been sleeping lots?

Are you getting short of wind when you are walking around?

Are you bruising or bleeding anywhere?

Illustration of a young man sleeping; and touching his arm looking worried

Don’t feel shame, go to the health clinic for a check-up.

Talk with the workers at the health clinic


Talk with the workers at the health clinic

Tell them if you have:

– Felt lumps in your body
– Are sleeping a lot
– Getting short of wind
– Have bruises or are bleeding anywhere.

They will do a blood test.

Your blood tells the story about how well you are.

Illustration of a young man talking to a worker at a health clinic
Inside your blood


Inside your blood

Your blood is made of many tiny shapes called ‘cells’.

These cells are so small you cannot easily see them.

When doctors test your blood they use a special machine to see these blood cells.

Illustration of a young man lying in bed. A magnifying glass is showing what the inside of his bones look like.
8. Cells in your blood


Cells in your blood

Your blood has three types of blood cells. They have different jobs to do to keep you strong and well.

Platelets: Stop the bleeding if you cut yourself.

Red cells: Carry the wind you breathe into your lungs and around your body to make it work and move.

White cells: Fight against germs and stop you getting sick from infections.

Illustration of a scientist looking through a microscope, with pictures of what platelets, red cells, and white cells look like beside him.
9. Looking at cells in your blood


Looking at cells in your blood

Doctors count how many different types of blood cells you have.

They look at the shape of your blood cells, to see if they look weak or strong.

When cells are weak, they may have holes in them or their shape may have changed.

When cells change like this, they don’t work right and this can make you sick.

Illustration of what strong blood cells and what weak cells look like. The weak cells look like blobs with holes in them.
What else does a blood test do?


What else does a blood test do?

Blood tests can show how well your liver and kidneys are working.

The liver’s job is to break down medicine and foods for your body to use.

The kidneys clean your blood and get rid of the rubbish in the urine (pee).

Illustration of a young man with his liver and kidneys magnified. The liver breaks down drugs and the kidneys clean the blood of waste.
More cells in your body


More cells in your body

There are many cells everywhere in your body.

They all have different jobs to do.

Cells all fit together in your body to make your body strong like bricks fit together in a house.

Illustration of a young man with the cells in his body magnified. They look like tiny little spots.
Sick cells


Sick cells

When cells in your body or blood get weak, you get sick.

Just like when the bricks in a house get weak, the house can get sick and fall down.

A young man featured in two positions: standing, looking worried; and asleep in bed
13. What’s next?


What’s next?

When your blood tests show changes, you will be asked to leave country and go into the city hospital. There you will have more tests to learn why these changes are happening for you.

It can take a while to get all the tests done, so you may need to be in the city hospital for days or weeks.

You can take a family member with you.

In hospital you will meet special blood doctors and nurses.

An illustration of an indigenous man in bed, with a family member sitting beside him and a doctor standing by, talking to them
14. When you are in hospital


When you are in hospital

The hospital staff can help you and your family with any questions or worries you have.

There are many staff who can sit and chat with you too:


(Indigenous Liaison Officers)

Church Ministers

(Pray, sing or just talk with you)

Illustration of an Indigenous Liaison Officer, next to a Church Minister
15. When you are in hospital (continued)


There are also…
Your Language Speakers


Blood Nurses

(Explain things to you and help you talk with the doctors and staff about the tests and what’s happening each day)

Social Workers

(Support you and also help you with money questions and/or Centrelink.)

Illustration of three support staff: interpreters, blood nurses, and social workers
Blood tests every day


Blood tests every day

When you are in hospital you will need to have a lot of blood tests.

A special tube, called a PICC line, will be put into your arm, so you can have blood tests without needles.

The mob in X-ray will put this in for you.

You can also be given medicines and bags of special water into the PICC line.

Illustration of a young indigenous man with a PICC line in his arm
17. Other tests


Other tests

You will have X-ray tests which show pictures of the organs inside your body.

These X-rays are called a:

– CT scan or a
– PET scan

These tests don’t take long and do not hurt you.

Illustration of a young man about to enter a CT scan machine in the hospital
18. Lumps in your body


Lumps in your body

The X-rays can show if you have special lumps of concern inside your body.

The doctors may need to test a small piece of a lump, to see what is inside it.

Before the test, you will be given a needle to make the lump go numb so you won’t feel the test.

Illustration of a young man with various lumps on his body
19. Young blood cells


Young blood cells

Inside your bones, are many tiny holes called the ‘bone marrow’.

Inside your bone marrow is where your body’s young blood cells are made and grow.

When these cells are older, they move from your bones into your blood and go to work.

Illustration of a young man with his skeleton visible. A magnifying glass shows what the inside of his bone looks like.
A bone marrow test (biopsy)


A bone marrow test (biopsy)

To help the doctors learn more about your young blood cells, you will need to have a bone marrow test.

This test is done from your hip bone.

You will be given medicine to put you to sleep for this test. You will feel a small needle sting in your hip at the start, then it will go numb.

The test takes only a few minutes, then you sleep for a while.

Illustration of a young man asleep in a hospital bed. Nearby, a doctor watches over him.
21. Spine fluid test-lumbar puncture


Spine fluid test-lumbar puncture

Some blood cells can move into your spine and make you unwell.

To know if this has happened to you, you can be asked to do a spine fluid test.

The fluid inside your spine looks like yellow water.

At the start of the test you will feel a small needle sting in your back.

This test usually takes 5-10 minutes. Then you lie in bed flat for a few hours, to stop any headaches.

Illustration of a young man asleep in a hospital bed
22. End of book one


End of Book One

We hope this book has helped you and your family learn about:

– Why the doctors test and look at your blood.
– What cells are, what they do and how they make our bodies strong.
– Why the doctors do other tests, X-rays and scans.
– Why you need to stay in the hospital for awhile, for the tests.
– Why doctors put a special tube in your arm.

Please read Book Two to learn about the test results.

Common questions


Common questions

7….What are cells?

8….What do cells do in our bodies?

16….What is a PICC line?

18, 20-21….Will the tests hurt?

17….What are scans?

20….What is a bone marrow test?

21….What is a spine fluid test?

Abbreviations and references – part 1


Abbreviations and references

Cells – are small shapes found inside your body which have special jobs to do to keep you well and strong.

Blood Nurse – (Cancer Care Coordinator) a member of the team who works with patients with blood changes and their families.

Bone marrow – the holey area inside large bones, where young blood cells are made and grow.

Bone marrow biopsy – a test of the fluid and cells inside the bone marrow.

CT Scan – (Computer Topographic Scan) is a special X-ray that shows pictures of the soft and hard areas inside your body.

Abbreviations and references (part 2)


Abbreviations and references (continued)

Haematologist – specialist blood doctor.

ILO/Indigenous Liaison Officers – are staff members who support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and families.

Interpreters – special language speakers.

Lumbar puncture – test of the fluid inside your spine.

Leukaemia Foundation and support workers – an organisation which supports patients and families diagnosed with a blood cancer.

PET scan – (Positron Emission Topography) is a special X-ray that shows which parts inside your body are making a lot of new cells.

26. Abbreviations and references – part 3


Abbreviations and references (continued)

PICC line/tube (Peripherally inserted central catheter) – is a special plastic tube which goes into your vein in your upper arm.

Platelets – blood cells which stop the bleeding if you cut yourself.

Red blood cells – carry the wind you breathe into your lungs and around your body, to make it work and move.

Social worker – a member of the team who helps with your physical, financial and social wellness.

White blood cells – fight against germs and stop you getting sick from infections.

Cancer Institute of NSW (2020) Retrieved from

Leukaemia Foundation (2020) Retrieved from

Need to talk?
Need to talk?

Contact us on 1800 620 420
Or fill out this form here

Back cover
previous arrow
next arrow

The interactive booklet above works best on Chrome 87 or later, Firefox 80 or later, Safari 13 or later, iOS 15 or above, or Opera 73 or later. It does not work on Internet Explorer. If you are having trouble viewing the above booklet, you can download the PDF version of this booklet here.

Last updated on May 23rd, 2023

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.