Tag Archive for: Tumbarumba

Darroll is a proud octogenarian, who is now cancer free. Describing himself as a “survivor”, he’s living his best life with wife, Patty, three children and six grandchildren, enjoying every precious moment and some awe-inspiring life experiences, like skydiving! For Darroll, his extended cancer journey has given him a new lease on life.


Darroll from near Tumbarumba in south-west NSW

Back in 2010, Darroll, who lives 20 kilometres from Tumbarumba in south-west NSW, was experiencing intense pain. His local GP sent him to Wagga Wagga, where a tumour, the size of a “little-kid football”, was picked up on a CT scan. Following an emergency trip to Sydney, he was formally diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

What transpired was a harrowing time for Darroll and his close-knit family, which included weekly trips to Wagga Wagga for eight rounds of R-CHOP or chemoimmunotherapy. However, after round seven, Darroll developed a lung infection, requiring 32 different antibiotics and four blood transfusions. He lost 15 kilograms.

Facing the prospect of 20 rounds of radiotherapy, and daily return travel between home and Wagga Wagga, he and Patty were bearing the weight of a huge emotional, physical and financial strain, made even more traumatic when a kidney stent became blocked and Darroll ended up with blood poisoning and his kidneys ultimately collapsed.

Thankfully, Darroll recovered. He thought it was the last of the illness.

In 2019, seven years later, Darroll was diagnosed with prostate cancer — and an all-too-familiar 20 rounds of radiotherapy began. This time, Darroll and Patty stayed at Lilier Lodge in Wagga Wagga, a warm and  supportive home-away-from-home for cancer patients travelling long distances for treatment, like Darroll.

“Lilier Lodge is a marvelous place to stay at while having treatment. It’s like one big, happy family who were there for you at all times making it easier to cope, says Darroll.

“It really made a difference being around people who understood each other, not just for me, but also for Patty who had other carers to lean on. We talked, we listened, shared our stories and had each other’s back.”

Darroll would like to thank Can Assist Tumbarumba branch:

“Without the help of the branch, things would have been a lot harder for me. They assisted me during my cancer treatments, paying many accounts, including medical out-of-pocket expenses and travelling costs. Plus, the members had talked to me about what I was going through and if they could help in other ways,” he says.

“What a wonderful organisation we have here in Tumbarumba, with exceptional and kind workers. A lot of stress and worries were avoided so I could concentrate on getting better. Thanks a lot for everything. Let’s hope it’s there forever to keep on helping all those in need. I give them 100 out of 100 for their assistance.”

Just two days before his 6th birthday Alex was diagnosed with ALL Leukemia.

It all started with a sore knee.  Incorrect diagnoses and consequent ineffective treatments saw Alex awake one morning screaming in pain. Alex and his family were at his grandma’s house in Tumbarumba that morning from where he was taken by ambulance to the nearest regional hospital in Wagga Wagga (113 km away).

Alex's Story

Alex being transferred from Tumbarumba Hospital to Wagga Wagga Base Hospital. December 2021

After an initial 6 week stay at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital treating a suspected bone infection, Alex was transferred to the Sydney Children’s Hospital (280km from home). Some 2 months later a biopsy revealed Alex was suffering from Leukemia. It was nearly 12 months since his initial symptoms.

Alex commenced what would be his first of 4 chemo rounds 3 days later.

First insertion of the chemotherapy port, March 2022

It would take about another 10 months to complete the intravenous course of chemotherapy, which was punctuated by pneumonia, long COVID, a serious fungal infection, neutropenia, vomiting and diarrhoea. Alex would finally return home 4 days before Christmas.

May 2022. Alex had not long completed his first round of chemo and steroid treatment. He needed help breathing since his oxygen levels were too low.

August 2022.  Alex has completed his 3rd chemo round. Whilst he was supposed to go home for 10 days after this, 4 hours after arriving in Bungendore he was admitted to Canberra Hospital and promptly flown back to Sydney.

September 2022. Back in Sydney. Alex’s fungal infection was spreading; to his pelvis, liver, lungs and spleen; high temperatures and night sweats.

Alex makes it home Christmas Eve to be with his little sister Maddie. December 2022.

Alex is now receiving oral chemotherapy which he can take at home in Bungendore. The many trips continue back and forth to hospital – but for now that’s only a 40km trip. “Any temp above 38 degrees and we are right back at hospital, but taking the distance out of the picture makes it all so much easier to handle, apart from taking the extra costs off the table it allows all of us to be near our support networks which brings just a little bit of normality back into our lives” Brittany Melhuish, Alex’s Mum.

“Cancer takes its toll on everyone. Maddy was only 3 years old when Alex was diagnosed, there was a 3 month stretch over COVID when she couldn’t see Alex at all. Mum, Maddy and I all lived in a 1-bedroom apartment in Sydney over the course of Alex’s treatment. Since I had to stop work Alastair (Alex’s Dad) had to keep working. He drove back and forth every weekend to be with us. In the earlier months, I was able to draw on my holiday leave but when that dried up the extra expenses became very difficult to manage; there were the accommodation out of pockets (over IPTAAS), everyday expenses, the petrol for all those trips…. even the parking was $30 a day. Another charity referred me to Can Assist – who I had never heard of before.”

“On calling Can Assist, the person I spoke to could help me almost straight away, Ann was so lovely, warm and comforting and put me immediately at ease. I felt very supported by Can Assist, right from the beginning. To have their help with my accommodation out of pockets and some every day expenses was just amazing.”

February 2023. Alex smiles through it all. His first day back at school, with no appetite at all he is nourished via a feeding tube.

April 2023.  Easter weekend. Alex doing well, feeding tube gone and a big smile from Mum, Dad and little sister.

By March 2024, Alex will no longer be considered immune suppressed. He will turn 8 that month. Monitoring will continue for another 6 months or so – but the finish line is in view.

Can Assist remains available to help …cancer is a journey, and we walk alongside you until – the finish line is crossed.