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Feeling the physical, emotional and financial effects

Belinda and John-Michael Barrie stand outside in a garden, smiling
Belinda and John stayed in a Leukaemia Foundation accommodation centre for six months during John’s treatment.

Since being diagnosed with blood cancer, John-Michael Barrie and his wife, Belinda, have felt not only the physical effects of this disease, but also the emotional and financial effects.

When John and Belinda married in 2008 they had no idea how their future would unfold.

Two years later, John felt a lump on his chest and after investigation was diagnosed with a blood cancer called lymphoma.

The couple had just bought a house in Brisbane and they were forced to sell it when John began treatment and Belinda became his full-time carer.

John had an autologous stem cell transplant but it was unsuccessful and he relapsed.

Without a home they stayed at a Leukaemia Foundation accommodation centre for six months, which Belinda described as ”saving us from financial ruin”.

“While we were staying at the house a Christmas hamper from the Leukaemia Foundation was delivered that allowed us to have a lovely Christmas day with our family at a time when funds were very short,” Belinda said.

“It is these beautiful gestures of support that made us feel like we were not going through this terrible time alone.”

Stem cell donor

Soon after a compatible stem cell donor for John was found and he travelled to and from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital with Belinda to embark on another stem cell transplant.

During that time John was able to access his life insurance through the terminal illness component, and the couple was able to buy a house in the rural town of Lockrose in the Lockyer Valley.

Belinda said the chemotherapy and two stem cell transplants were absolutely gruelling and there were times that she nearly lost John, but he got through it.

Graft Versus Host Disease

While John is now lymphoma free, he has developed chronic Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) in the form of severe scleroderma, which has no cure.

“We had hoped that our lives would be back to some kind of normal but the GVHD has meant John’s health is far from good,” Belinda said.

“Throughout all of this we have been so grateful for emotional and financial support from the Leukaemia Foundation. I don’t know what we would have done without it.

“The impact of being diagnosed with a blood cancer is not only physically felt by the patient but it also affects finances, and the health and emotional well-being of the carer.”

The couple wanted to find a way of saying thank you and so they organised a gift in their Will.

“Updating our Wills gave us the perfect opportunity to include a gift to the Leukaemia Foundation. It was a great way of ensuring other patients in the future will have access to the same support we’ve had,” Belinda said.

“The financial impact of us not being able to work meant it was impossible for us to support the Foundation financially – so a gift in Will was the perfect solution.”

Last updated on August 5th, 2020

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.