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Josh ‘hit cancer on the head’ to get family home

Three years after starting treatment for leukaemia, Josh Sullivan is back to working the family farm – a 6000 acre wheat, sheep and canola property – and life is pretty much ‘back to normal’.

Except that the impossible happened… Josh and his wife Tegan welcomed baby Luca, a sister to Jaydn, six, and Jai, four.

“My doctor said it would never happen, certainly not within four years,” said Josh, 34, who had a stem cell transplant in August 2012.

Josh Sullivan and familyIt was earlier that year that Josh and Tegan were taking over the family farm, 35 km from Esperance (WA), when Josh was diagnosed with AML.

“All of a sudden I started feeling crook. I felt really flat, had no energy and quite a few flu symptoms,” said Josh. “I went to the doctor who said it was just a bit of stress but after the third doctor visit I thought ‘stuff it’ and took myself to hospital to ask for a blood test.”

Within an hour, Josh got a call from the hospital doctor and he was to go straight to hospital in Perth. Arriving at 7.30pm, Josh checked himself into Emergency, had a bone marrow test later that night and was placed in quarantine so he knew something was going on.

Tegan flew up the next morning and was with Josh when he was given his diagnosis. Josh was in the average to poor group and, while it was hard, he decided to ‘hit it on the head’.

“When I was diagnosed, the Leukaemia Foundation followed the doctor in the door,” said Josh. “Within a few days we knew we had somewhere to stay, so we didn’t have to think about that.”

The Sullivan family spent the next nine months in the Leukaemia Foundation’s Bassendean apartments, free of charge, as Josh had three rounds of chemotherapy and a transplant.

“It was absolutely wonderful. We couldn’t have asked for any more than they (the Foundation) gave us,” said Josh. “Tegan was able to drive in to the hospital to see me every day and I’d come out of hospital to a clean environment.”

Josh said his first round of chemo “did the job” although he spent five days in ICU and “nearly died”.

He got through, luckily, and went into remission just three weeks after diagnosis and then after his second round of treatment, he went home for the first time.

“It was wonderful to get back to the farm. I’m not a city person,” said Josh, who returned to Perth to begin his third round the day after his 31st birthday in mid-May.

The family again returned home for six weeks before Josh had a matched unrelated bone marrow transplant in August. A similarly aged man from Germany was the chosen donor and the transplant went well with Josh experiencing only some mild graft versus host disease in his mouth and liver a month after.

In October 2012, Josh and his family returned home to the farm where Josh ‘pottered around’ and for the last 12 months he has been doing everyday things, working from sunup to sundown most days.

“I feel magnificent. I have so much drive now,” said Josh. “All I want to do is work, to be a successful farmer and a good dad. I absolutely love farming – it’s always what I’ve wanted to do – and it’s a great lifestyle for the kids.”

Josh says the love and support of his wife, family and friends is what helped him through and he could never thank any of them enough.

Last updated on July 3rd, 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.