“I started my journey at National Audits Group (NAG) in November 2016. Having just embarked on a new career path, I was filled with trepidation. I had only just recently finished university at 46 years of age. Everything was new and sometimes daunting. I suddenly found myself unable to complete even some simple tasks, and I kept questioning myself. I was generally a high functioning person, but here I was struggling with things I would have normally breezed. I had suffered from constant ailments that did not let up and left me unable to concentrate. I just chalked it up to stress, and boy did I stress!!!
“I went back home to South Africa for my nieces wedding in March 2017 and returned to work in April feeling really “jetlagged” and barely made it through the day. I cannot remember what I did but I was not productive at all, which compounded my stress.
“On April 4 2017, I got ready for work. With about 15 minutes to spare I decided to have a nap, and got woken up by my wife an hour later. She thought I had already left for work, but no!! I was in lala land. I called in sick that day, but I was determined to shake this feeling and get back to work the next day.
“On April 5, I was feeling just as bad. Again, I got ready for work, but just could not make it out the door. I went to the doctor that day who was sure that it was just jetlag. I had just come back from South Africa, after all. Deep down I was not convinced, but I decided to take her advice and hoped that these symptoms would ease. The doctor put me off work until Friday, and I was relieved.
“On April 6, I was lying on my favourite couch when my wife “suggested” I do something around the house to shake the feeling. Any married man knows you do not have a choice when these suggestions are made. So rather reluctantly I grabbed the vacuum. No sooner than I started, my heart began pounding and I starting sweating profusely. I told my wife that I was not feeling too good, so she called the doctor asking if she could prescribe something for anxiety. The doctor suggested I come in again, and did an ECG which was surprisingly clear. My pulse rate was normal and so was my blood pressure. It was then I found out that I had lost about 8kgs in the last 2 months or so. The doctor suggested doing some bloodwork, thinking that it was maybe diabetes, or even the dreaded family curse – heart disease.
“On April 7 I went to the pathologist at 7am, as it was a fasting test. I dragged myself to work, but went home for lunch at midday. On the way back to the office I got a call from the doctor. She was very apologetic and asked me to go straight to the hospital, as I was at risk of having a heart attack, stroke or an embolism. According the blood tests done that morning there was no doubt that I had leukaemia. My white cell count was in the early 300s, with the normal range being between 4 and 11. My blood was really thick like “maple syrup” hence the risk of a heart attack or stroke. I was numbed with shock and fear and drove to the hospital in a daze. When I got to the Emergency Department, they were ready for me as my doctor had made prior arrangements. I was very emotional, fearing the worst, and then when they said that I was to be airlifted to Sydney that night, it made me even more scared. I was fearful for my family and their future. We were all alone in a foreign country with no other family around. Thank God for my wife and kids, who were a pillar of support and strength to me.
“I got to Sydney and tests upon tests were done. It was confirmed a few days later that I had Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia. By this time the initial shock had worn off and I was feeling a bit more hopeful. I was still in the chronic phase and the doctors assured me that I had a good chance of beating this disease.
“I was discharged on April 12 2017 as the treatment was working and my white cell count was about 99. A few days it dropped down to 16, and I became ever so confident that there was light at the end of the very dark tunnel.
“I went back to work 2 weeks later still feeling tired and rundown, but the desire to get back to normality pushed me on. All this while NAG management were awesome, telling me to take time, to rest up, and not push myself unduly. At one point I was even “told” to take time off as I was pushing myself and was even given the option of working from home. I was only doing half days, and most of the time did not work full weeks either. Come to think of it I am still struggling to make full weeks, although my strength is returning and I don’t think it will be long before I do. My cognitive skills are improving and I don’t feel so vague anymore.
“I write this today feeling clear headed, and ever so grateful to my NAG family for their support during my dark hour. How often do we hear of employees being treated harshly, and especially so if they are unable to work optimally? I was still on probation when I was diagnosed, it would have been perfectly understandable if my services were terminated, but thankfully NAG management are not that way inclined. They are a great bunch of guys who I am always glad to see every morning. There are no sad sacks, everyone has a happy face with bright smiles. What more do I need??
“Next step – full recovery!!!”
– Gansen Pappiah, Auditor, National Audits Group, Wagga Wagga NSW.