In 2015, Brendan McKellar found himself in hospital numerous times for small, unexplained issues such as a cellulitis infection. When he had to cut a holiday short over the New Year period, Brendan thought he had a virus that had been going round the family but quickly wound up in hospital again and was diagnosed with pneumonia.
“I was pretty rubbish and although I went home, I didn’t really recover properly,” says Brendan.
When his wife found him slumped over his desk she demanded he go back to the doctors and push for more tests. Brendan’s usual doctor was away and thankfully, the doctor he saw knew his symptoms were unusual. After more tests he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
The sudden diagnosis was difficult for Brendan and although he went through all the typical emotions like shock and denial he says he remembers mostly feeling hopeful.
“I knew I was lucky to have access to great medical care and a supportive wife and family around me. I think having that support system is vital”
Brendan’s doctor insisted he start chemotherapy straight away as his paraprotein levels were very high. After five rounds of treatment, his levels came down and he started to prepare for a stem cell transplant which meant he needed to be in isolation for 17 days which he says was really difficult.
“I’m fortunate that the stem cells did take and it was a successful transplant but the process of recovery was very, very hard for me physically and emotionally,” says Brendan.
Brendan gradually got his strength back after making a determined effort to move a little more every day which he knew was helping both his mind and body.
When Brendan was diagnosed, he was always busy with his business and life in general and suddenly he had to pull back and trust his wife to take care of everything which he says took a while to get his head around.
Although he had a lot of family support, it was a difficult time for their family as Brendan’s father was going through treatment for bowel cancer.
“The hardest person to tell was my mum who was supporting my dad at the time.
The first thing she said to me was to not tell my father!” says Brendan.
During treatment, Brendan was prone to infection so he could not visit his dad which made things hard for the both of them. Thankfully, he was able to see his dad in hospice before he passed away.
“I was able to tell my dad not to worry about me and that I would be right and so far I am!” says Brendan.
Now two years on and in remission, Brendan is still trying his best to stay physically and mentally fit and is always looking for ways to improve his health to increase the length of remission.
Brendan has been using different complementary therapies to ensure he stays as fit and well as possible and says in general he is feeling ‘good but not great’ and his blood test results continue to stay the same.
“Because I know I will have this blood cancer for life, knowledge is extremely important. My wife Val and I try and get to all the Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand support groups especially the educational sessions and the Blood Cancer Patient Forum to learn new things and hear about new research,” says Brendan.
Brendan says it can be challenging from a psychological standpoint knowing he will most likely have to go through treatment again but he says he will have to simply deal with it when and if the time comes.
“It can sometimes be a daunting thought but I know I am doing all I can to stay well and I’m determined to just get on with it and make the most of every day I have!”