Beating blood cancer – 1700km from home

The McKinnon family

According to Teresa McKinnon, whose six- year-old son Bayley has leukaemia, the thing you need most as a carer is to know that you are not alone.

National Carers Week recently shone the spotlight on how important carers are when someone is diagnosed with a serious illness like blood cancer – a notion we fully support.

We’ve learnt through 40 years of experience that a blood cancer diagnosis affects the whole family, not only the patient. This has led to the development of support programs and services to specifically help carers because they do such an important job.

In Teresa’s case, becoming Bayley’s full-time carer while he goes through his leukaemia treatment in Brisbane has meant being 1700 kilometres from her husband Jamie and their four-year-old twins, Corey and Archie, who are at home in Malanda, North Queensland.

“Jamie and I decided when Bayley was diagnosed that it would be better for the younger boys to be home where they could be with their Dad and keep going to kindy, surrounded by our very supportive local community,” Teresa said.

Information and emotional support

For the family’s financial stability, Jamie continued to work as a fly-in fly-out Coordinator of Maintenance in Papua New Guinea. In the two weeks every month that Jamie is away, Teresa’s Mum travels from her home in north-west New South Wales to look after the boys.

“So I really consider that there are three carers involved in Bayley’s illness – me, Jamie and my Mum. I am so grateful that the Leukaemia Foundation has recognised this and offered invaluable emotional support not just for me but for all of us,” Teresa added.

“Leukaemia Foundation Support Services Co-ordinator Maryanne Skarparis takes me out for coffee regularly to see how I am going and give me time away from the hospital.

“She has really gone the extra mile by phoning Jamie and my Mum to keep them feeling connected and offering them information and emotional support.

“As Bayley and I prepare to go home in the next couple of months, the new Support Services Co-ordinator in Cairns, Donna Vrancken, has also been in touch with Jamie so that we can work out how the Foundation can best support us when we are back in Malanda.

“I am so grateful that I have not had to face this really difficult time alone. It has been so great knowing that Jamie and the boys are going well at home and I know it means a lot to Jamie to know that the Foundation is supporting me while Bayley and I are in Brisbane.

“The peace of mind this emotional support brings is an incredible gift.”

Contact the Leukaemia Foundation of Queensland

If you are caring for a loved one with a blood cancer and you need support and information, please contact us on 1800 620 420. Emotional support, counselling and financial assistance is available for carers and patients whether you live in metropolitan or regional areas.

The Leukaemia Foundation also offers a Caring for the Carer program which gives carers information and strategies to deal with the special challenges that come from caring for a loved one with a blood cancer. The program provides an environment where participants can feel comfortable to share their experiences of being a carer.

Participants are nurtured and pampered over a four-week program that is designed to meet the specific needs of carers. Call us on 1800 620 420 for more information.

This story was originally published in The Carer, our free publication for everyone affected by blood cancer. Read the latest edition or subscribe to get future editions sent straight to your inbox. You can also support our vital services by making a donation.

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