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Saturday, 24 May 2014

Maddies Story

Before writing about the ride back to Melbourne overland, I would like to write about a remarkable young woman that I was lucky to meet in Moree. I say lucky because, if she hadn't had a successful bone marrow transplant, I would not have had the honor of meeting her. I asked her if she would send me a story of her ordeal, which she has done and I have posted it here, as she has written it.

My name is Maddie Evans and my family and I live in Moree NSW and own and run a local pub. I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in January of 2011. I had a Bone Marrow Transplant in July 2011 and I'm still currently in full remission with a very positive outlook.

I was studying Engineering at UTS in Sydney, when during the last semester I started to get tired. I put it down to exams. I came home for uni holidays and started working in the pub as I normally do. I kept getting sicker and my glands around my neck started to swell up on and off in early December. I thought I had a summer flu. Just after Christmas I went to the doctors thinking I had tonsillitis. The doctor on call gave me a script for some penicillin and sent me on my way. It didn't help.

I opened the pub up Friday morning, January 21, and by 11am I had to call someone in to cover for me after nearly fainting twice. I went back to the doctors a second time to ask for another script and to find out what was wrong when a senior doctor (Maxine Percival - now retired) was called in to consult about whether or not I could have glandular fever. I was wearing a blue summer dress (that I've now burnt) and when jumping up on the exam table, Dr Percival caught sight of all the bruises covering my legs. She said right away that that doesn't look right, and ordered a blood test immediately.

I went home to rest, and just after 4pm that same afternoon I got a phone call from Maxine saying that she believed me to have Leukaemia - my white blood cell count was over 110. My parents were still driving back from holiday at this time, so I went to Julie, a family friend, at her work to wait for mum to get home. Telling mum was hard. I didn't believe it myself. I was on the Air-Ambulance plane that very night with mum and on my way to Sydney. I had just turned 20 less than a month before. We were lucky, I was taken to St Vincent's hospital in Sydney and the doctor on call at the time, John Moore, was assigned to my case. He was - excuse the French - f$@king amazing.

From there, I had my first round of chemo. It wasn't pretty, but I can't remember too much of it thankfully. My Sydney friends from uni were very supportive, my mum was with me every step of the way, and the nursing staff on 9 South were amazing. I was in good hands.

I got into remission after my first round - which was the best possible result. I was unfortunate enough to have all the worst types of indicators and proteins on my Leukaemic Cells, so getting into remission after the first whack of chemo was great.

I got to go home for a few weeks and see my little brother and dad who had been holding the fort at the pub woke mum and I were away. I was eventually told it was time to come back to hospital and have a dose of Consolidation Chemotherapy - a smaller whack of the stuff to make sure they got everything. I was a terrible patient! I didn't feel anywhere near as sick this time and was constantly pressuring my nurses to speed along my blood transfusions so I could go out to the movies or go to the football on Friday night! Mum and our family friend Julie helped decorate my room in hospital and even got me a fish - this second round wasn't too bad at all.

Finally it was time to go home again. These holidays were a little tougher. I was told that for the best long term results, I needed to have a bone marrow transplant. I spent these holidays on a hormone regime in an attempt to harvest and save some of my eggs so I could have kids one day - I did manage a handful and cannot wait to start a family some day in the future.

The bone marrow transplant required me to have three days of total body irradiation followed by four days of chemo. This was to make sure they completely wiped out all my bone marrow. I was lucky. Very very lucky. I had 5 donor matches to choose from. Some people wait months without finding a match. My little brother was too young to donate, and parental matches are very rare. Please please please encourage men to donate blood and check the little box that says that you're happy to go on the bone marrow registry. 
Male donors, or women that haven't had kids, are the best sources of bone marrow for bone marrow transplants. I had a lovely man in his early thirties from South Australia donate mine. I've never met him, but I owe my life to him.

The bone marrow transplant wasn't easy, and I was lucky enough to get every side effect imaginable. But it's fixed me. I'm nearly three years post transplant now and I only get the mildest skin and glandular irritations to remind me of what I've been through. It was hard work, for everyone. But it's brought my family closer together and given me a unique and wonderful view on life.

This is my first round and my lovely group of friends - from left: Emily, Alex, Me and Sarah.

Round 2! Julie and the fish!

Just a regular Friday night in hospital!

Bone Marrow transplant day!!! Just like a regular blood transfusion!

Many many many drugs later... And eventually I was all better!
All better and a head full of hair!!

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