“Why are these pesky mortals doing another medical procedure on me!?” This was running through Wendy Harrex’s mind while in intensive care.
“I got really close to dying. I felt so awful, I was ready to die.” It’s a humbling thought. Wendy had spent an entire year feeling ill, with her doctor unable to figure out what was wrong. Endless infections, fatigue, and finally symptoms of what seemed to be acute onset rheumatoid arthritis.
”I was referred to a rheumatologist.” On Christmas Day in 2017, before her test results came back, her condition suddenly worsened. She was rushed to hospital, where she was diagnosed with a lung infection – and follicular lymphoma.
She wasn’t shocked or overwhelmed, but grateful that she finally had an explanation. “Christmas and January are a special time for my family and me, because I almost didn’t survive.”
Her story includes alternating big scares and rounds of chemotherapy. “Now I’m on a low dosage regime of tablets. It’s chemotherapy that I take three days a week. That has transformed my life and I feel better than I have in four years.”
In fact, just last summer, Wendy dusted off her e-bike, which she had previously been too weak to use, and completed the rail trail in Central Otago.
Wendy had found it hard sitting on the sofa for months during 2018 while facing her diagnosis, and wondering what lay ahead. Here she gives credit to LBC – although it wasn’t straightforward at first. “When I first met the person from LBC in the oncology ward, I thought, what’s their job? Soothe the dying brow? I was a bit sceptical.”
“But subsequently I have attended the patient seminar in Wellington, the Christchurch webinar; my partner has gone to LBC’s support group for carers (Support Persons Connect) and we’ve seen the development of a really good support group in Dunedin. Contact with other people living with blood cancer has been really important to me.” In short, she has learnt how meaningful LBC’s work can be for patients.
For Wendy, life is for living – “Try to be positive. Believe that you’re alive and enjoy every day – that’s why I like to say, ‘I’m alive – and kicking’.”