Leukaemia: Our world came to a grinding halt

Patient Stories

“The simple and painless gift of a stem cell donation will save lives!” That is the message Louisa Corbet wants people to hear after her husband, Clynton’s, experience with leukaemia.

It was the first day of Spring 2007, when the Corbet family’s world as they knew it came to a grinding halt.

Clynton, a 30 year old father of a new baby daughter (Libby) and two young boys (Ryan and Dylan), visited his GP after he had been feeling extremely tired, and noticed unusual bruises and a rash on his back and legs.

“Within two hours of seeing our GP we were told that the emergency department at the Royal Brisbane Hospital was waiting for us,” Louisa said.

Shortly after arriving in Brisbane from their home in Gympie, Clynton was given his diagnosis – acute lymphoblastic leukaemia which was most commonly a childhood leukaemia.

“The haematologist told us that without treatment Clynton had two to four weeks to live. I remember looking down at our new born baby girl sleeping in my arms, oblivious to everything.”

Clynton commenced treatment immediately. Following five months at the Wesley Hospital having high dose chemotherapy the Corbets got the news they so desperately wanted to hear – Clynton was in remission.

“Clynton was inspirational during those really tough months of chemo.  Even on the hardest days, he always tried to find a positive in every negative,” Louisa said.

“The hardest thing for both of us was being split as a family. Clynton was in hospital, I was in a unit with our baby and our boys were coming and going from Gympie, we could never have survived this period without the loving and unconditional support of family.”

A transplant gives Clynton a chance

With Clynton in remission, the next stage of a bone marrow transplant began which was his only real chance of a full recovery. During the time of his transplant, the Corbet’s were provided with free accommodation at the Leukaemia Foundation’s Herston Village.

“The village accommodation was wonderful and allowed us to be together as a family and I got to know other families who were going through the same battle,” Louisa said.

“Learning about the disease and the transplant was just so overwhelming.  The first step was to test Clynton’s three siblings to see if they were a possible match.  There was a one in four chance that they would be a match.”

“It was a very anxious time waiting for the results to come back.  If Clynton’s siblings weren’t a match, they would then search a world data bank of donors to try and find a match, before he relapsed. “

“We will never forget the day that Clynton was told his brother, Cameron’s test results came back as a perfect match.   How blessed and grateful we felt at this point because we could now focus on a cure not just treatment.”

Clynton’s stem cell transplant began in March 2008 with two days of very high dose chemotherapy and three days of total body radiation to eliminate his own DNA. On the same day, his brother Cameron began to prepare for the stem cell harvest.

This process was done by peripheral blood extraction. Cameron had a cannular placed in his arm (like a routine blood test) which was attached to a machine which sorts the stem cells out of the blood. This process took around five hours while Cameron watched TV to pass the time.

“This simple and non-invasive treatment saved his brother’s life! I just want people to know how easy this process was so they will put their names on the Bone Marrow Register. It is simply the most unbelievable gift anybody could give another human being.”

“Most people seem to think that you have to go through some terribly painful procedure in order to donate stem cells. It couldn’t be further from the truth,” Louisa said.

Clynton is now in remission and has regular medical checks.

“There was a long time that we didn’t know if Clynton would ever come home. We now look forward to watching our three beautiful children grow up. We are currently managing a Toyworld in Gympie and life is wonderful,” Louisa said.

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