A young dad still grieving the loss of his stillborn child is now in a fight for his own life.
Andrew Free, from Wodonga, on the Victoria and NSW border, suddenly became incredibly unwell last September, suffering severe pains in his stomach and back.
“I couldn’t walk straight — I knew there was something going on,” he said.
After visiting a nearby hospital several times, the 32-year-old, who is also a dad to a nine-year-old boy from a pervious relationship, was rushed to a cancer hospital for a bone biopsy.
Afterwards, he broke the news to his wife over the phone that he had been diagnosed with a type of blood cancer called Multiple Myeloma.
“At the start of the diagnosis I felt like I went from being a 32-year-old to being 80 in three days,” he said.
In a tragic twist of fate, Andrew’s mum, who he had helped care for during her battle with bowel cancer, was given the all-clear the very same week.
While in hospital, his mum was laying just 10 beds away, but the pair were unable to visit each other due to Covid restrictions, he told Yahoo News Australia.
“I was now seeing it through her eyes but I couldn’t lean on her for support,” he said.
Multiple Myeloma is a blood cancer that develops from plasma in bone marrow, according to cancer.org.au.
The type of cancer is usually seen in people aged over 60, making Andrew’s diagnosis unusual.
However, Andrew said his doctors told him they had been seeing more cases this past year in people aged in their 30s and 40s.
“I have age and health on my side so they can throw the kitchen sink at me,” he said, speaking about treatment options.
Andrew is now undergoing chemotherapy injections and will have to take daily chemo tablets for the rest of his life - which cost $6,000 every three weeks without healthcare.
His treatments are being covered by the PBS scheme under Centrelink, but he has been left unable to work. His wife also can’t work full time in order to take care of him.
Andrew's friends, family and the community of Wodonga have come together to lend the dad, who is still grappling with the loss of his stillborn child in 2015, a helping hand.
A fundraiser has been established to help the family pay bills and keep a roof over their head.
Andrew said he has been blown away by the generosity.
“I’ve seen the generosity and the niceness of people throughout this experience. People have reached out to offer support and help and it's just really made me realise that there are still good people out there,” he said.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.