June 7th 2020

Leukaemia Foundation Ambassador Profile

About the Leukaemia Foundation

The Leukaemia Foundation the only national charity dedicated to improving the lives of patients with all types of blood cancers including leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. We want more people to survive a blood cancer diagnosis and go on to live a full life. We are committed to investing in research projects which focus on improving patient outcomes and providing free support programs which aim to reduce the emotional impact of a blood cancer diagnosis. For more information please visit www.leukaemia.org.au or visit FacebookTwitter or Youtube.

We hope to one day beat blood cancers for good.

Allysha Zirbel with her children Braxen and Samara

As a local volunteer co-ordinator of Shave for A Cure and Light the Night, Allysha Zirbel gives back to the Leukaemia Foundation for the support she, her husband Jason and children Braxen and Samara received during Jason’s treatment.  Sadly, Jason lost his battle with Leukaemia in December 2017.

Allysha shares her ‘gold lantern’ speech from the 2019 Light the Night in Mackay.

“Tonight, I feel honoured to share the special meaning of the gold lantern with you all.

The gold lantern is to remember, reflect and share the memory of your loved ones. The person you carry in your heart may be a grandparent, a parent, a child, your husband or wife, your companion or partner, your friend, your sister, your brother or another close relative.

If you are holding a gold lantern tonight, you are on a journey that has changed your life forever. The days, weeks, months and years that pass do not stop you from loving that person who fought so bravely to stay but had no choice to leave their loved ones behind. The pain of this loss is intense and at times it can seem unbearable.

But you are not alone.

Look around at the sea of lanterns that surround you. Look at all of the people who share your pain and are here to support you.

The Leukaemia Foundation is also here to help those who have lost a loved one, through their range of grief services.

Through this, we hope to one day beat blood cancers for good.

Tonight, I share your pain, tonight I walk for my husband, the father of my children who was taken too soon.

Jason was diagnosed in March 2016 with Primary Central Nerva System Lymphoma. Within 24hrs our lives changed.

He had gone to work on the Saturday morning and at lunch time I received a phone call from his boss telling me something was wrong with Jas. He sounded drunk he said. Jason came home and he was cranky, he had no idea why everyone was worried.

I didn’t even let him in the front door, I couldn’t understand a word he was saying.

By Sunday lunch time we were in Townsville and our blood cancer journey began. Jason’s treatment required us to be in Townsville for 9 months of that year. If it wasn’t for the Leukemia foundation, I don’t know what we would have done. They gave us somewhere to stay, they gave us support, they kept us going. They even gave us Christmas. They organised a big Christmas party with presents for the kids. Even Santa came.

I will forever be grateful for that, as it ended up being our last Christmas with Jason.

After 10 months of treatment and countless setbacks we were given the news. Go enjoy your time you have left. So, we did. We never gave up trying any treatment that came our way. But we went and lived and made memories.

Jason was lucky he was able to finish his bucket list from New Zealand to Vegas and many other countries in between. He did it. We were in Japan on our last trip when we needed to get home quick. A week later, on the 9th December 2017 Jason was taken by blood cancer. Jason fought every day and never lost hope. Because of the Leukemia Foundation we were able to concentrate on Jason’s treatment.

Tonight, I am honoured to light a candle to symbolise the love we all felt, the tender moments shared and the laughter and tears that come with caring. We need a little light in our lives, let this candle and all of the lanterns around you be a spark of hope in dark times. May you carry this light deep within your heart, even after leaving here tonight.”

2019 Run to support local blood cancer survivors like the Cottons

Our world had just been turned upside down.

We had just been told that our son Liam (6) had leukaemia and we were flown to Brisbane (from Mackay) within 24 hours!

The world doesn’t stop when a diagnosis is given, if anything it gets more difficult.

The questions

  • How long will we be here?
  • How will our other children handle the news (22, 20 & 3)?
  • Where will we stay?
  • How will we earn money to survive?
  • and many more are thrown on top of………Will our Son survive??!!

Within a week, we were placed into an amazing 3 bedroom unit at the Leukaemia Foundation Village in Cooper Plains.

It was ours for as long as we needed it, no cost to us at all.  There was amazing support in the office from all the ladies, vehicles if we needed, their own bus service to the Hospitals and financial aid also.

To not have to worry about accommodation was such a relief.  To learn of all the other services available to us was overwhelming, and having our hands held in times of stress by the onsite counselors was such a blessing.

There were other families staying in the village who were going through similar journeys as us.  It was great to make those connections and have people surrounding us who understood what we were going through, and who we could be there for too.

We are so very grateful to the Leukaemia Foundation for having these resources in place for all the families that unfortunately find themselves in need of their services.

We are proud to be able to help raise the funds by volunteering at all the events (World’s Greatest Shave, Light the Night and the BMA Mackay Marina Run) to help the Foundation continue to support the many families in need.

Thank you, Kris Cotton

Join the Cottons at this year’s Mackay Marina Run as they run to support locals like them impacted by blood cancer. Go to the Fundraising page and set up your online Leukaemia Foundation fundraising page now to help beat blood cancer.

Lindsay, Liam, Kris and Alexis Cotton are pictured at Liam’s bell ringing at the Mackay Base Hospital in February 2018.

2018 – Run to support local blood cancer survivors like Mark

When Mackay local and father of four, Mark Rainsford, takes part in this year’s Mackay Marina Run, it will signify a celebration of his survivorship and a milestone in his recovery from blood cancer.

Mark had been feeling very lethargic and unwell for a number of months. As someone who enjoyed regular exercise, this was out of the ordinary. Night sweats and huge weight loss saw him checking into hospital for tests. “I was so weak…I was skin and bone”.

On his 50th birthday, Mark finally received some news after months of tests. “It’s cancer”. You need to pack your bags and go immediately to Townsville. I knew that something was wrong, but the last thing I expected for my 50th birthday was a cancer diagnosis.”

Mark faced three months of chemo in Townsville to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. The relocation from Mackay to Townsville meant Mark faced the immediate challenge of finding a place to stay.

That’s where the Leukaemia Foundation stepped in, finding Mark a comfortable place to stay free of charge while he underwent the fight for his life.

“The Leukaemia Foundation were amazing. I had no support person in my life at that time and the Foundation paid for my accommodation and supported me through my experience. They even provided my sister and my kid’s a place to stay when they came up.”

“Thanks to them, I knew I wasn’t alone. They gave me lots of information and visited me in hospital.”

“It was the little things too, like inviting me to a Christmas lunch, so I wouldn’t be alone during that time.”

After his treatment, Mark went home and worked on regaining his fitness and strength on his bike. “I’m really passionate about exercise to help get through and recover from cancer treatment – I’m always recommending exercise to others going through a similar thing.”

Unfortunately a PET scan on April fool’s day showed he had relapsed. He had to return to Townsville for more chemo followed by a stem cell transplant. “I got the flu on day 1 of the transplant with no immune system. It was really tough.”

Six months after he returned home from the transplant, Mark was playing soccer again, something doctors thought he wouldn’t be doing so quickly after treatment. Building up his fitness was once again very important to him. “Even after a chemo session, I’d be looking forward to getting on my skateboard or bike. Other patients thought I was joking”.

Last year Mark cycled across the Nullarbor solo, fundraising and raising awareness of the Foundation. Mark is now training in preparation for the Mackay Twilight Run this month, which is the lead-up event to the Mackay Marina Run in June. Mark is the official Leukaemia Foundation ambassador for these events.

“Over the years I have taken part in the Run because of a reason, like supporting my kids or doing it with a team. This year, I’m hoping I’ll be someone else’s reason to take part, inspiring them to fundraise to help others going through what I did.”

“It was a really hard time in my life, being a dad of four kids and facing cancer. I simply wouldn’t have been able to do it without the Leukaemia Foundation.”

“I’m putting the call out to entrants to fundraise for this great cause. It’s a good chance to enjoy a great run and also make a difference to the lives of others.”