Port Lincoln woman to do Dry July to help Leukaemia Foundation

FAMILY: Christine Heath with her husband Greg and daughter Ashleigh, six months before her bone marrow transplant. Photo: supplied
FAMILY: Christine Heath with her husband Greg and daughter Ashleigh, six months before her bone marrow transplant. Photo: supplied

A Port Lincoln woman is going dry for July to support Leukaemia Foundation, after experiencing for herself the support it provides for people diagnosed with blood cancers.

Christine Heath was working as a teacher in 2015 when she fell suddenly while walking up some stairs to class, then fainted while lining her students up.

After this she went to the doctor to get checked out and after her doctor was concerned about the haemoglobin levels in her blood test, she was given the option to go straight to a specialist.

Mrs Heath said after being closely monitored over several months, she was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome/myeloproliferative neoplasm in 2016.

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She said she was "shellshocked" to learn of the diagnosis, especially as her brother Stephen was also diagnosed with MDS/MPN the month prior and their father Geoff had died from it in 2011.

"We were led to believe that it wasn't hereditary, but after that a geneticist (Professor Hamish Scott) found it was familial and our family had a predisposition for it," she said.

After a watch and wait period Mrs Heath required treatment including regular blood transfusions and the Leukaemia Foundation assisted by providing drivers to transport her to the Royal Adelaide Hospital and return.

"It was really good not having to drive myself and find parking, it took away a lot of stress," she said.

On top of this Mrs Heath was also assisted by the foundation's 'Blood Buddies' program, which allowed for her to talk to someone who had gone through a similar journey and could share their experiences.

When it came time for her to have a bone marrow transplant, accommodation was provided through the Leukaemia Foundation's Bridgestone Australia Village in Adelaide's north eastern suburbs.

Mrs Heath said she and her family stayed in a two-storey, three bedroom unit for six months and had the chance to meet other patients who were also staying there.

Activities during their stay included tai chi, meeting other residents at the village breakfast once a month and taking part in the Christmas lunch.

"Being away from home and not having to worry about finding short term rentals was amazing," she said.

TRANSPLANT: Christine Heath was all smiles before her transplant. Photo: supplied

TRANSPLANT: Christine Heath was all smiles before her transplant. Photo: supplied

"When you are away from home, the little things can help.

"The Leukaemia Foundation and the Leukaemia Village were paramount to my recovery."

Throughout July many Australians take on the Dry July fundraiser which tasks them to abstain from alcohol throughout July to raise money for the Dry July Foundation, which in turn assists organisations that support people affected by cancer, including the Leukaemia Foundation.

Mrs Heath is taking on Dry July in 2021 and said going dry was going to be good for the body as well as helping those who had gone through what she did.

"Not everyone can donate, but if you can help advertise or share the message it would be beneficial," she said.

"Leukaemia Foundation supported me so I want to try and support them."

People can donate to Mrs Heath or other fundraisers by visiting www.dryjuly.com.

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