Two weeks after his mother was declared cancer-free, Andrew Free was diagnosed with a form of the disease.
The Wodonga man had supported his mum through her battle with bowel cancer, but little did he know he would soon have a fight of his own on his hands.
Mr Free, 32, was diagnosed with a blood cancer called multiple myeloma, which causes damage to bones, the immune system, kidneys and affects the red blood cell count.
There is no cure for this type of cancer, but it can be managed if treatment is effective.
He described the early stages of the disease as going from feeling like a 30-year-old to an 80-year-old in the space of three days.
"I was in pain, had no energy and went from being able to work relatively well to a shower being my day," he said.
"We've had a few hiccups along the way where my kidneys started playing up and they had to stop one of my medications to get on top of that.
"When it was diagnosed, one of the doctors had spoken to one of his colleagues in Melbourne and said in the last year and a bit people with this type of cancer between 30 and 40 have had a spike in cases for whatever reason.
"It usually hits from 30 to 40 or after 70."
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Mr Free recalls the anguish of not being able to see his mother after her successful surgery to remove the cancer, despite being in the same hospital, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
"She's cancer-free now so that was one less thing we had to worry about," he said.
"We went through it all from one side and supporting her and dad, but we were just over the hurdle with her surgery and got past that.
"I saw it from mum's side and how hard it would have been for her going through it all because she would say she felt helpless not being able to do anything.
"We kind of didn't get it, but sitting on the other side, I can now see as much as I want to do something, sometimes you just can't get out of that chair."
Mr Free and wife Kirsty have had to deal with their fair share of adversity, with the loss of son, Lyncoln, in 2015 at 22 weeks.
He also has a son from a previous relationship, who has behavioural issues and doesn't quite understand what has happened to his dad.
"It's hard enough to explain to an adult what's going on let alone a nine-year-old that doesn't really comprehend it and just wants his dad to get up and do stuff," Mr Free said.
"If I'm having a good day, I can spend some time with him, so it's been good in that way, but it was certainly an adjustment period there."
Mr Free and his wife have had to cease employment to maintain a healthcare card to subsidise the cost of his medication, which would be more than $6000 every three weeks without it.
Accommodation expenses are also imminent with Mr Free required to travel to Melbourne next month to begin the stem cell transplant process, which requires four to six weeks under observation once the new cells are in.
"They're hoping the stem cell treatment will kill it all off and it will sit in the background until it is ready to flair up again and they think about the next treatment," Mrs Free said.
"Worst-case scenario, if the stem cell transplant doesn't take as well as they would like, they have to go onto the next treatment option to try to slow it down.
"Andrew does have age on his side."
Despite all that has happened in recent months, Mr Free remains positive and has been blown away by the generosity.
Close friend Fiona Hartley started a gofundme in the past week which has already received close to $2000 to cover ongoing medical costs, while staff at his workplace, Arnold's Fruit Market, were quick to offer support.
"They set up donations on my staff discount card so we didn't have to go in and pay for our shopping and we received care baskets from both sides," Mr Free said.
"Seeing the generosity of people has restored my faith in humanity a little bit.
"You do go through those stages where you see nothing but bad news everywhere.
"The last few days when the gofundme page went up, there was a girl I went through primary school and high school with and I probably said about eight words to her, but she donated.
"Times are tough for everybody, so to see that generosity is amazing."
To donate visit - https://www.gofundme.com/f/please-help-andrew-fight-his-battle-with-cancer.
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