BACK pain and interrupted sleep resulted in a Wodonga woman fighting for her life.
In 2004, Marilyn Hare, now 65, collapsed and spent 30 hours on a stretcher before being diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
She was told she only had three years to live.
Ten years later, Ms Hare is sharing her story for today’s National Myeloma Day, hoping people will not ignore symptoms that may seem “mundane”.
“The symptoms are common and can fit so many other things,” she said. “You need to listen to your body.
“If you believe something is wrong you need to try and find out what it is.”
Myeloma is the third most common blood cancer after lymphoma and leukaemia and more than 1500 Australians will be diagnosed with it this year.
“I hadn’t even heard of it before,” Ms Hare said.
“I remember just thinking ‘OK I’ve been dealt this deck of cards and now I need to deal with it’.”
Ms Hare had always slept well but it became impossible in 2003 when she kept waking up with a stabbing back pain.
She was exhausted and thought she was just unfit so began walking with a friend four days a week.
She wasn’t losing any weight and she couldn’t step off a kerb without pain shooting from her legs to her back.
It was January 1, 2004 when she collapsed on her way to the bathroom and was rushed to hospital.
After she was diagnosed she undertook a chemotherapy clinical trial combining thalidomide and dexamethasone.
“If people aren’t willing to do these trials the doctors will never learn,” she said.
“I thought I didn’t have anything to lose and if things went pear-shaped, things went pear-shaped.”
She began the treatment a month after she was diagnosed but after two rounds, she collapsed again and was flown to Melbourne where she was put in an induced coma in intensive care.
This time it looked like she wasn’t going to make it and her family were preparing to say goodbye.
But Ms Hare said her stubbornness and willingness to fight got her through.
Three weeks later she was transferred back to the Murray Valley Private Hospital in Wodonga.
She worked at Mars Petcare as a logistics worker for 17 years and she returned to work part-time in November 2004.
Ms Hare collapsed again in June 2005 and decided to retire in September at 57.
In 2009, her myeloma came back and she began her second clinical trial, Rev-lite.
She is now in her third year of remission and looks after her grandchildren while spending time with partner Bryan Clyde.
“It’s important that other sufferers know they can make it past what is considered to be the average life expectancy,” she said.
“I am living proof that someone who has it really bad can come through it.”