Stand­ing strong to­gether

Stanthorpe Border Post - - FRONT PAGE - Kim Micke Kim.Micke@bor­der­post.com.au

DE­SPITE the storm that hit ear­lier on Fri­day af­ter­noon, a huge crowd at­tended the 2017 Light the Night event. The friendly at­mos­phere was en­joyed by every­one in at­ten­dance. Jane Ker­ridge was our blue, Laura Sullivan our white and Angie Sims our gold lantern am­bas­sador for the day that was set to fundraise for the Leukaemia Foun­da­tion.

TWIN sis­ters Jane Ker­ridge and Laura Sullivan have been through a lot to­gether.

The two women from Stan­thorpe have a close bond and when Laura was di­ag­nosed with leukaemia last year, Jane tried ev­ery­thing to help her sis­ter.

In Oc­to­ber last year, Jane de­cided to at­tend Light the Night in Stan­thorpe in sup­port of the Leukaemia Foun­da­tion.

This year, Jane and Laura walked side by side hold­ing a blue and white lantern.

Jane, who was the Blue Lantern Am­bas­sador for the night, said she was happy to be able to go to Light the Night with her sis­ter.

“Once Laura was di­ag­nosed in March last year, I at­tended the very first one which was six months later in Oc­to­ber,” Jane said.

“Laura was in hos­pi­tal at that stage hav­ing treat­ment.”

For White Lantern Am­bas­sador Laura, it was a spe­cial night.

“I am hon­oured to be back here,” she said.

“We haven’t lived here for 20 years. To be in­vited back as the am­bas­sador is a big priv­i­lege.”

At Light the Night, peo­ple can buy dif­fer­ent coloured lanterns to carry on the Light the Night walk.

Each colour has a dif­fer­ent mean­ing.

Blue stands for sup­port. If a per­son car­ries a gold lantern, it means they have lost a loved one to leukaemia.

White stands for some­one who has been di­ag­nosed with leukaemia.

“It is emo­tional to see the dif­fer­ent colours,” Laura said.

“To see the yel­low ones for peo­ple who passed away that’s tough be­cause you know their jour­ney has gone a dif­fer­ent way but it makes you ap­pre­ci­ate be­ing here.

“All the blue means sup­port and if you look around there is a lot of blue so there’s a lot of sup­port.”

Laura said when she was first di­ag­nosed with leukaemia Damien An­der­son, who lost his wife to the dis­ease, set up a Go Fund Me page in Stan­thorpe.

“They raised so much money for me,” Laura said.

“It was beau­ti­ful, I’ve had so much sup­port from Stan­thorpe.”

Laura’s jour­ney with leukaemia started last year in March.

“I had three months of chemo from March through to June and then I had a bone mar­row trans­plant in July,” Laura said.

Jane was a per­fect match for Laura, but the trans­plant was more dif­fi­cult than ex­pected.

“Jane was an ex­act match but she was ac­tu­ally too per­fect so if they put her im­mune sys­tem into me it wouldn’t have worked,” Laura said.

“So then we had our brother tested but he wasn’t a match. They like it to be a per­fect match. He was a 50% match so he wasn’t great.

“So they said we’ll look on the na­tional reg­is­ter and found some­one in Perth. A 23-year-old fe­male from Perth.”

Laura said she felt lucky and was grate­ful she found a donor but there was still a long way to go.

“If you can hit five years then that’s a re­ally pos­i­tive sign that you won’t re­lapse but there is al­ways the chance of re­laps­ing within the five years,” Laura said.

“The only thing that they worry about after that is be­cause you’ve had so much chemo and to­tal body ra­di­a­tion is that you pick up a sec­ondary can­cer.

“You are much, much more likely to get other can­cers.

“But, we’re here.”

After the trans­plant,

Laura had to spend 100 days within 25km of the Bris­bane Hos­pi­tal.

“So that’s when the Leukaemia Foun­da­tion put us in ac­com­mo­da­tion for four months,” Laura said.

“We had a three-bed­room, two-storey town­house unit.

“We had free shut­tle buses to and from the hos­pi­tal.

“The whole house was decked out, all we had to take was food.

“It was all so car­ing and thought out.”

The White Lantern Am­bas­sador said she ap­pre­ci­ated what the Leukaemia Foun­da­tion had done for her.

“I just think it was a re­lief, I was stressed enough about mov­ing away from the girls,” Laura said.

“It’s one less thing you have to worry about.”

Sis­ter Jane said the Leukaemia Foun­da­tion was a good cause for which to fundraise.

“With the ac­com­mo­da­tion it was fan­tas­tic,” she said.

“It was one less thing that you had to try to or­gan­ise.”

Mum Deb­bie Wren said the ac­com­mo­da­tion the Leukaemia Foun­da­tion sup­plied for her fam­ily took a great deal of weight off her shoul­ders.

“Just to know that we could stay some­where,” Mrs Wren said.

“I have no words.”

Mrs Wren said the time fol­low­ing the trans­plant, when the fam­ily was liv­ing in the unit in Bris­bane, was a dan­ger­ous one for Laura.

“If she got a fever or some­thing we had to call an am­bu­lance,” Mrs Wren said.

“Her im­mune sys­tem was so down.”

“Ba­si­cally once you have a trans­plant you go back to a new­born’s im­mune sys­tem so I’ve got to go through my six months vac­ci­na­tions, I’ve just had my 12 months vac­ci­na­tion,” Laura said.

“You have to be care­ful be­cause a com­mon cold in early days can kill you.

“I had to have a 24/7 carer so my mum and dad moved up into the vil­lage with me.

“We had a one-year-old and a three-year-old daugh­ter at the time so he (Laura’s hus­band Brendon) kept work­ing and look­ing after the girls at home on the Gold Coast with help from his par­ents.”

For the first 100 days

Laura spent close to the Bris­bane Hos­pi­tal, she was not al­lowed to go out and had to take strict pre­cau­tions on what she ate.

“It will ac­tu­ally take years for it (the im­mune sys­tem) to build up to an adult,” Laura said.

“I had a flu last month and some­one might take a week to get over it, it takes me two or three weeks to get over it.”

Laura said she tried to al­ways stay grate­ful for what she had.

“I am pretty good com­pared to other peo­ple,” she said.

“It’s nice to be out.”

Jane said the past two years were a roller­coaster of emo­tions.

Laura was di­ag­nosed with leukaemia on a Fri­day and started chemo on the fol­low­ing Mon­day.

“It was just in­stant,”

Laura said.

“They say if you don’t get your chemo straight away you have ba­si­cally three to four weeks to live.”

After one-and-a-half years of treat­ment, Laura still has to visit the doc­tor reg­u­larly.

“You start with two blood tests a week and then you go once a week and once a fort­night and now once a month,” she said.

“But I am still on a lot of med­i­ca­tion. It’s been tough but every day I think we’re get­ting bet­ter.”

It was beau­ti­ful, I’ve had so much sup­port from Stan­thorpe.

— Laura Sullivan

PHOTO: KIM MICKE

LIGHT IT UP: Twin sis­ters Jane Ker­ridge, Laura Sullivan with their mum Deb­bie Wren at Light the Night in Stan­thorpe on Fri­day, Oc­to­ber 6.

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

STRONG TO­GETHER: An older photo of Laura Sullivan with her hus­band Bren­dan and their two daugh­ters Iso­bel and Lucy.

Laura had a lot of fam­ily sup­port at Light the Night with Cooper, Jen, Lu­cas and (back) Chris Wren walk­ing with her.

Laura Sullivan at Fri­day’s Light the Night char­ity event that raised funds for the Leukaemia Foun­da­tion for pa­tients like her­self.

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