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The journey’s been tough but now Robert’s easy riding

Published Date: 28 June 2017 Categories: Patients, ALL

Robert Holloway was semi-retired and living an active and healthy life of adventure with his wife Kelly. He’d recently dived WWII wrecks in Micronesia, renewed his wedding vows in Tasmania and bought the motorcycle of his dreams.

Robert Holloway

Things took a dramatic turn after he was told he had acute diverticulitis as well as advanced Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL).

“It was a bit of a shock as I was a very healthy person,” said Robert, 59, of the NSW central coast.

“I had no stress. Life was going quite well.”

In May 2014, Robert woke with stomach cramps. Then, after being told he had diverticulitis, a blood test revealed he also was in the final stages of ALL, and had only two weeks to live.

Chemotherapy treatment

Robert began chemotherapy immediately, spending seven months in hospital at Gosford.

“I’d hardly been to the doctor in 26 years and the last time I’d been to hospital was when our son was born. I hadn’t had a Panadol for 15 years and suddenly I was having 47 tablets a day!” Robert said.

Then after having colostomy surgery to remove a third of his large intestine due to the diverticulitis, his 91-year-old mother passed away.

“It was a pretty tough time,” said Robert who also had to deal with a number of issues during his ALL treatment including a bacterial infection, abscesses and skin problems.   

Stem cell transplant

In December 2014, after radiation therapy, Robert had a matched unrelated stem cell transplant in Sydney on his mother’s birthday.

“My journey would have been over in mid-2015 and I would be so much stronger now if I didn’t have diverticulitis, a colostomy bag and the surgery.”

Robert had recovered to around 90% of his original energy and strength by November 2016, but that month he had two bouts of surgery and both had complications.

“Strangely, having the chemo and the leukaemia was a lot easier to handle than having the actual surgery which really knocked me around badly,” he said.

Road to recovery

Robert Annapurna

“I’m in repair mode again, at around 40% now, but I’m getting stronger and better every week.

“It’s a tough journey but it is salvation,” he said.

“I have been able to see the birth of my two granddaughters and walk my other daughter down the aisle in 2014. Having those opportunities is priceless.”

During the three weeks Robert spent in Sydney for his transplant, Kelly stayed in a Leukaemia Foundation patient and family accommodation unit nearby.

“As a way to give something back I wanted to volunteer for the Leukaemia Foundation and when I heard about the Blood Buddies program it appealed to me. Kelly and I both signed up and trained to be Buddies,” he said.

In the last 18 months Robert has been a Buddy to eight different people and Kelly has spoken to a couple of carers.

“As much as we are helping other people going through or about to go through a similar journey, it helps me understand my journey as well, and that’s given me a lot of strength and positive power. And I’ve met some lovely people along the way.”

“I’m enjoying life as much as I possibly can without having too much worry and stress, and I sleep a lot. I’m lucky I’m a self-funded retiree!

“My major goal is getting healthy again and strong, spending as much time as I can with my grandchildren and being there for them.”

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