Lymphoma: Shock diagnosis three days before wedding
When Mick Zuvelek from Cairns was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma only three days before his wedding, his partner Jennifer recognised the symptoms only too well.
Remarkably, Jennifer had faced a Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis when she was only 17.
“I’d had a persistent cough for a number of months and felt really tired especially in the afternoon. The doctors put me on antibiotics thinking I’d picked up a bug,” Mick said.
“But just three days before our wedding day in 2012, I showed Jen a lump that had appeared on my neck and she immediately said I needed to see a doctor. She’d had a similar lump when she was diagnosed with lymphoma.”
Mick was only 27 years old, about to marry the love of his life, and father to two-year-old Clare. He had everything to live for.
“When I visited the doctor the blood test didn’t reveal anything but an X-ray showed a 13cm mass around my heart,” he said.
Mick received a shock lymphoma diagnosis and the wedding was postponed. He then quickly began chemotherapy and radiation in Cairns.
After his initial treatment the lymphoma relapsed. His doctors tried a new chemotherapy regime and three years ago this month Mick had a transplant using his own stem cells.
“All went well and I was fine at my six-month check, but by my 12-month check I had relapsed,” he said.
Mick started chemotherapy again. This time he was given Brentuximab vedotin, a promising new drug that was made available to him free-of-charge by a pharmaceutical company on compassionate grounds. The drug normally costs around $16,000 every three weeks.
In September last year, Mick’s brother flew from Canada to be the donor for his second stem cell transplant.
Since then, Mick, Jennifer and Clare have been staying free-of-charge at our accommodation village in Townsville.
“The village really does feel like our second home now. It has been fantastic to have somewhere to stay at no cost,” he said.
“Clare is now five years old and has started school in Townsville, which she really loves.
“Our local communities in Cairns and the Tablelands, where I grew up, have been so supportive, together raising money for our family and the Leukaemia Foundation.
“Our family and friends have been blown away by the support given to us by the Leukaemia Foundation. It has inspired them to get involved in World’s Greatest Shave and raise money for the charity. We have been overwhelmed by people’s generosity.”
Mick is now 160 days post-transplant, in remission and looking forward to heading home to Cairns.
“We would like get back to Cairns so Clare can start her second term of school at home, but I will have to just wait and see what my doctor says.
“For now I’m just enjoying being in remission. I will take everything else one step at a time.”
Mick’s story appears in our second edition of our newest magazine Blood Cancer News, our essential resource for everyone and everyone affected by a blood cancer.