Growing stronger but taking nothing for granted
Born and bred in Far North Queensland, Lyn Chiozzini’s leukaemia diagnosis meant leaving behind loved ones for months of treatment in Brisbane.
Working in a local cafe, Lyn, 54, thought frequent trips home to nap were simply a sign of getting “old and tired”. Suffering from chronic rheumatoid arthritis, she was used to having regular visits to the doctor. But when her blood tests started showing her neutrophils were steadily dropping to a dangerously low point, she was sent to the haematologist.
“I just thought perhaps it was anaemia or low iron levels. Cancer didn’t even cross my mind,” she said.
“My husband, Gino, came with me to the appointment and we were in total shock when I got the diagnosis.”
Blood cancer diagnosis
Lyn was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in October 2015 and her treatment began in Cairns.
During her first round of chemotherapy, Lyn contracted pneumonia. She then spent three days in intensive care after developing a lung infection. After her third round of chemotherapy, Lyn and Gino were sent to Brisbane for a stem cell transplant.
All Lyn’s family, including two children and four grandchildren, live in Moresby, a small town south of Innisfail, but she says Gino was there for her “every step of the way”.
“Fortunately the Leukaemia Foundation gave us a lot of information about what to expect and organised accommodation for us at their Herston Village, near the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital,” Lyn said.
“It was so overwhelming when we arrived. It was such a huge hospital and everything felt so unfamiliar.”
Stem cell transplant
None of Lyn’s four siblings were a match for the stem cell transplant so a 39-year old American man became her unrelated donor. Following her transplant, Lyn enjoyed a relatively smooth recovery and spent only 15 days in hospital.
“Don’t get me wrong, I got very sick during the chemotherapy leading up to the transplant. I was warned the melphalan would knock me around, and it did!” Lyn explained.
Lyn says fatigue is still the most prominent side-effect of her cancer but she knows she is growing stronger each day.
“I have been given a second chance at life and I’m not taking that for granted. I’m grabbing it with both hands.”