Finding the light after cancer

Roxanne, Brendan, Matilda and Darcy Hodda have come through Brendan's cancer recovery stronger.

By Matthew Pearce

Brendan Hodda’s life was changed forever by his blood cancer diagnosis.

In 2015, the Bouldercombe dad was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia three days before his 40th birthday.

“We went from being just a young family getting about doing normal things to having to send him down to Brisbane with the Royal Flying Doctors,” his wife Roxanne said.

“Brendan spent 56 nights in a high dependency unit at the Wesley Hospital in Brisbane and in that time he relapsed and we were told he’d need a bone marrow transplant.

“None of his sisters were a match and we had to hope that the Australian Bone Marrow donor register could find a match for him and they did.”

Brendan received his life saving bone marrow transplant on Christmas Eve 2015 and he’s never been healthier, recently competing in the Barra Bash where he caught a 880mm barra.

The Hodda family are big supporters of the Leukemia Foundation’s Light the Night.

The event unites the national blood cancer community to light lanterns reflective of their connection with the disease, and this year, thanks to Covid, it went virtual, with thousands of people lighting up simultaneously across the country and connecting virtually in real time.

Roxanne said while this Light the Night, held on Saturday, 10 October, had been a bit different to previous events thanks to Covid restrictions, the family had still raised $200 on the night for families facing a blood cancer diagnosis, as well as $400 so far through the Leukemia Foundation’s fundraising page.

“Light the Night is a very important day in our family, number one to raise money for the Leukemia Foundation but also to recognise Brendan’s journey and our journey as a family in getting him healthy and well and home again,” she said.

“This year we had a party at home and wore the colour shirt that we wanted our lantern to be; Brendan had a white lantern as a survivor, our friend Patty who lives around the corner also had her white shirt on, and the kids and I and Brendan’s family and friends wore blue in support of him. My mum wore a yellow shirt in memory of her mother who also had blood cancer.

“We also drank our lantern colours, with blue lagoons, gold beer and white wine, and walked down our street at Bouldercombe to light our lanterns.”

Roxanne said Leukemia Foundation research showed major disparities in treatment, care and support for people living with blood cancer in regional and remote areas versus metro areas, and these barriers to care significantly affected survival rates.

“For people in regional areas, the upheaval is so massive, we were gone for seven months and were separated from our children, Matilda and Darcy, for 10 weeks,” Roxanne said.

“That impact on our family life and our finances and our work is so different than it is for people in metropolitan areas.

“With the National Blood Cancer Strategic action plan, we’re trying to get the same treatment for people regardless of where they live, the best treatment possible at the best time by the best people.”

Brandan and Roxanne have both recorded podcasts for the Leukemia Foundation, which are used as a support mechanism for other people with blood cancer and their families.

“The Leukemia Foundation has lots of really good resources for people with blood cancer or people who are supporting people with blood cancer,” Roxanne said.

Roxanne’s fundraising page is at: https://secure.leaukaemiafoundation.org.au/registrant/FundraisingPage.aspxEventlD=15917&RegistrationID=796790&Referrer=direct/none.

For more information go to https://www.leukaemia.org.au