Judi Haidley, pictured with bone marrow donor Sandra Veitch, spent the Christmas 1991 in hospital, after being diagnosed with leukaemia.
Judi Haidley, pictured with bone marrow donor Sandra Veitch, spent the Christmas 1991 in hospital, after being diagnosed with leukaemia. Brian Dittman

The day that changed Judi's life

AS CHRISTMAS rolls by, Judi Haidley is keenly aware of how lucky she is to see out another festive season.

On Christmas Eve 20 years ago, Judi's life was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia - and she is still alive today thanks to her donor Sandra Veitch.

So this Christmas, on the 20-year anniversary, Judi is asking everyone to remember what is important in life.

"I would firstly encourage people to think about getting onto the bone marrow donor list," she said.

"Don't take for granted relationships with family and friends - and remember those who have lost loved ones this year."

It might have been nearly 15 years since she conquered the dreadful disease but Judi still wells up when she remembers how the nightmare began.

At a time of the year when she should have been gathering with family and friends, Judi found herself at the Royal Brisbane Hospital awaiting immediate treatment.

"The thing that could save me was a bone marrow transplant," she said.

"Sandra was on the bone marrow transplant list and she was a match."

Sandra Veitch, Judi's second cousin, became her saving grace and Judi said she would always be in her debt.

Another thing that helped her through the recovery process was the unending support from family, friends, Dr Simon Durrant and the staff at the Royal Brisbane Hospital.

"We still receive cards from people who had loved ones going through treatment at the same time," Judi said.

"It's just amazing; some of these people have lost their sons or husbands and they're still in touch every year.

"It's funny that something so devastating can still bring out so much friendship."

Judi said she wanted to reach out to anyone else who might be going through what she experienced 20 years ago.

"It's the uncertainty from when you're diagnosed to going from week to week and being told you have to find a donor in order to save your life," she said.

"I still go down to Brisbane each year for a check-up and I use that opportunity to thank the staff and try and catch up with other patients.

"Some don't want to talk because they're so sick but others might see hope if they see someone who has recovered."

Judi said she would welcome any contact with people who want to talk about living with leukaemia.


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