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John’s gratitude for the PA

Tuesday 08 December 2020

The last four years have been a rollercoaster ride for Hervey Bay's John Weiland. Not only did he manage to marry his wife, Monique, while awaiting a liver transplant, but in November 2019 he was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in his right tibia.

The father to Jett, 4 and Addyson,6, who were both born while he was on the liver transplant list, has had two liver transplant operations in 2016 and all of his treatment for Osteosarcoma since his diagnosis at the PA Hospital.

John with wife Monique, and children Jett and Addyson

John learned he had the rare form of bone cancer after experiencing soreness in his knee which troubled him and going for scans, which after an X-ray and an MRI confirmed his worst fears.

"It was a painful spot and it's a fairly rare cancer. I think that one of the biggest challenges with it is that it doesn't get diagnosed because it is so rare," he said.

"You get a sore leg or a sore spot in your knee and having been a state league basketball player I had all sorts of things wrong already, so they just passed it off the first time as one of my old injuries flaring up.

"The ultrasound didn't pick up anything, but I just knew something was wrong. The day that I got the ultrasound results I saw a late-night doctor because it was just hurting, and he sent me for an x-ray.

"It showed up clearly on the x-ray and then I had an MRI and it was pretty clear that there was something very much not right."

After confirmation of his diagnosis, John began chemotherapy at the PAH, before surgery on his tibia to remove any remaining tumour and had to explain to his young children what the treatment meant.

With his treatment completed in Winter, John is now awaiting the news that his doctors consider him cancer free.

"I told my kids that I had a sore knee and it's making me sick and that Daddy has to start really strong medicine. And then when things changed, the way I looked, and when my hair fell out, I just told them that it was just the really strong medicine that makes Daddy look different and makes his hair fall out," he said.

John with daughter Addyson

"The treatment for sarcoma itself is done. It's just that yucky part now where you wait and hope that they got it and it's all gone. So, so far so good."

Though he lives in Hervey Bay, John's appreciation for the PAH began as a liver transplant patient in 2016, when one gastroenterological condition, ulcerative colitis, led to another rarer condition known as primary sclerosing cholangitis, which damaged his liver.

"I had it for about 10 years and that ended, that culminated in 2016 with me getting a transplant. I was just getting too sick and too many infections which is always the thing that happened when you've got PSC bugs get into your bile and your bile not getting out of your liver."

"Unfortunately, I needed two transplants, the first one, failed, they lost the artery, it was just a fluke thing, nobody's fault."

During his four years of travelling south down the Bruce Highway to be treated at the PAH, John said two nurses Phoebe Price and Courtney Rawson were his healthcare heroes, whose presence and support helped lift his spirits during his time in hospital.

"There's so many wonderful staff at PA, I think there's two that were standouts for me. One would be the transplant nurse and her name was Phoebe, she was amazing and really good with my wife and family and had a lot of empathy," he said.

"Courtney was always really happy and smiling and always comes in and has a chat and I always felt a little bit cheered up after I saw her."

Having been through gruelling chemotherapy John is a passionate advocate for cancer research, as he knows it's the key to others not having to potentially go through the same process.

"Research is massive, when you're sitting in that hospital bed and you're going through it all, sometimes you just think and hope that one day there'll be a better way," he said.

"The cancer treatment. It's really tough. It's so much harder than the transplants and anything else I've been through health wise. If we can find other ways to treat it or more effective ways that don't have such a harsh effect on your body and your mind, that's really important.

"We need to find a better bone cancer treatment; I can tell you that much. That was really hard. We need to wipe cancer out eventually, for everybody, if the public isn't supporting cancer research and getting behind it, then that may never happen."

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