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Dry July gets Judd through

Saturday, 27th June, 2020

Judd Carpenter at the Royal Adelaide Hospital at the beginning of his eight months of chemotherapy treatment in August 2018. Judd Carpenter at the Royal Adelaide Hospital at the beginning of his eight months of chemotherapy treatment in August 2018.

By Annette Northey

Judd Carpenter’s journey on his two-year-long treatment regime for leukaemia is almost at an end, and now fit and strong, he is a model of inspiration for all, for his fortitude and maturity in overcoming adversity.

Every day 35 Australians are diagnosed with blood cancer. By 2025, this number is predicted to jump to 50 people. That’s one Australian every 41 minutes. 

Judd was diagnosed with leukaemia just two weeks before Christmas in 2018. 

He had been sick with the flu for a while and was suffering from nose bleeds, bleeding gums and night sweats. Judd was always so fit and sporty and played a lot of footy, so for his mum, Dionne, to see him so lethargic and having to drag himself out of bed every day it was a bit of a shock. 

 Judd went to the local doctor who put him through two courses of antibiotics. When the second course still had no effect, Judd went back to the doctor for a third time with his mum, making sure he got a referral for a blood test. 

The leukaemia was picked up straight away by the blood test and he was flown to Adelaide to start treatment immediately. 

Dionne had very little knowledge about leukaemia.

“It was a whole new world to us,” she said.

In the new year, Judd and Dionne moved into the Leukaemia Foundation Patient Accommodation Village and stayed there for the next eight months while he underwent chemotherapy in Adelaide. 

It was here that they met Leukaemia Foundation Blood Cancer Support Coordinators Shelly and Andrew, who supported them both throughout their blood cancer journey. 

 Dionne said the people and whole experience in Adelaide couldn’t have been any better.

“As soon as we arrived, the staff at the village couldn’t have been more helpful. 

“They came down and sat in the unit with us to talk us through everything; what to expect and what support was available,” she said. 

Dionne also attended Caring for the Carer sessions run by Andrew at the village to meet others supporting a loved one in treatment. 

“It was so important for me, both as a mother and carer, to have others to speak to and understand that you’re not alone in all this. It was my comfort zone being there with familiar faces who you know have your back. 

“We would often go down to the office to see the Leukaemia Foundation staff whose door would always be open,” Dionne said.

This is where Dry July comes into it.

The Dry July Foundation raises funds for the Leukaemia Foundation so they can provide support for Australians facing blood cancer with a range of practical services, such as free accommodation for families from rural and regional Australia near the hospital; free transport services to get to and from hospital appointments; a team of blood cancer support staff who provide practical assistance and emotional support to individuals and families when they need it most; funding for important research; and advocating for public health policy reform so all Australians have easy access to the very best blood cancer treatments.

Dionne said all of these services made their eight-month stay in Adelaide a comfortable one and that they couldn’t have asked for anything more.

While Dionne and Judd were in Adelaide, Judd’s father and older sister were holding the fort in Broken Hill, and they saw each other once a month.

“My husband and daughter would come down one weekend every month to stay with Judd so that I could have a weekend up in Broken Hill; just to catch up on things and do what I needed to do,” she said.

“And Judd’s mates would also come down and visit him.” 

Judd took his eight months of treatment seriously and faced his health challenge diligently and responsibly by not going out of the village to reduce his risk of infection, except to go to the hospital.

Sometimes he and Dionne would drive to Glenelg to grab a coffee and have a look around, but Judd would never get out of the car.

Judd did not even go shopping in the eight months he was there.

“I did though,” laughed Dionne.

Judd came through his eight months of chemotherapy treatment with flying colours, with only one setback during the whole time.

Judd’s blood sugar level rose drastically to 60 (normal range is between about 4 and 8) and because of this he became insulin dependent. But as doctors were weaning him off the steroids that were preventing nausea from the chemotherapy, his blood sugar levels began to fall again and soon returned to normal.

Judd said that was the worst part of the whole journey.

“I was pretty sick, I lost 12kg in three days and became insulin dependent.

“It was the most challenging part,” he said.

But Judd and Dionne were able to return home in August 2019. 

Judd is now back at work as a qualified carpenter and is taking life head on - keeping healthy and having lots of haircuts.

He finishes his oral maintenance medication soon and will undergo another bone marrow biopsy in December this year to ascertain if the leukaemia is completely gone.

The family will never forget the kindness they were shown by Andrew, Shelly and all the staff at the Leukaemia Foundation, and everyone at home in Broken Hill.

“We want to thank everybody who supported us through it all.

“The Leukaemia Foundation, family, friends and community who got us through,” Dionne said.

You can participate in Dry July this year by getting your friends to sponsor you to go alcohol free for either the whole month, 21 or 14 days, visit www.dryjuly.com

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