“It began with a cold sore that wouldn’t clear up, and then bruising on my legs. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I went to the doctor on a Monday. On Tuesday morning I got a phone call to come in. This is when I learned I had leukaemia. When I was referred to the Mater for chemotherapy, I kept thinking they’d made a mistake. When I realised that I was in for the fight of my life, I was determined to get back home okay.”

After a diagnosis of leukaemia, a life-threatening cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system, Patricia Clarke spent four months in hospital fighting off the disease. Her ailing body endured three rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.

“I would have bad days where I’d feel sorry for myself. But my way out of them was to go to the hospital bathroom and start giving out to myself in the mirror! I’d tell myself, ‘you can cry, or you can fight this and get better’. I shook myself out of feeling scared.”

With the threat of infection and a severely weakened immune system, Patricia received her care as an in-patient in the Mater’s hospital ward. Over the weeks, she grew very close to her medical team who would sometimes stay with her after their shifts had finished.

“One of the days I had a bad reaction, a seizure, and my nurse stayed with me until quarter to ten. She was meant to have finished at eight. Her poor husband was out in the car waiting for her for two hours. My own husband Nick was also with me almost every day, and my daughter Lindsey. The Mater has family rooms for visitors, and we’d go in there away from the noise of the ward. I’d eat crackers and marmalade and we’d have a cup of tea. Those moments were hugely important to me.”

The road to recovery

Thanks to the tremendous care that Patricia received in the Mater, her blood tests started to improve after her chemotherapy treatment, and she was eligible for a life-saving bone marrow transplant. Patricia left the Mater Hospital on the 8th of January 2018, equipped with a new sense of appreciation for life. A regular visitor to the Mater for medical check-ups, Patricia has often shared advice to newly diagnosed cancer patients.

“Sandra, the clinical nurse manager, asked if I could come in and talk to a young mother who’d just received the news. She was distraught. She asked me if I thought she’d survive it. I told her never to doubt it. Never doubt that you’ll survive cancer. Focus only on getting better for your child and yourself.”

If you’d like to support the Mater Foundation and make a real and lasting difference to people like Patricia, you can take on a challenge to raise funds for patient care. Learn more or make an inquiry by clicking on this link.

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