After a tumultuous couple of months, the Raunjak family - of Big Macs for Raunjaks fame - has some good news to share.
Jocelyn Raunjak, who was hospitalised in March with acute promyelocytic leukaemia and gave premature birth to her daughter Samantha by caesarian, has been discharged from Canberra Hospital.
She is still attending chemotherapy daily as an outpatient.
Her husband, Hume District Police officer Andrew Raunjak, remains with her in Canberra, where he is also caring for baby Samantha.
With the resumption of school, his older daughters are in Goulburn with his mother-in-law.
"They're still sad not seeing Mummy as much," said Andrew, "but Jocelyn's doing a lot better.
"We're taking it one day at a time."
Andrew said he and Jocelyn want to send their personal thanks to everyone.
"We were totally blown away by the amount of support people have given," he said, referring to the fundraising efforts that have so far raised almost $30,000.
"It's been a massive financial relief.
"We still don't know what things will be costing."
NSW Police Legacy is still raising money for the family.
"It's been hard," said Andrew, "but the support has been fantastic."
Andrew wanted to share the story of Jocelyn's illness in his own words. Read on for a full update and see the journey through Andrew's eyes in the photos below (WARNING: graphic content - some photos may upset readers):
On March 12, I noticed dark bruising on Jocelyn's back, stomach and legs. She was 36 weeks pregnant.
The next day, we mentioned the bruising to the midwives at Goulburn Hospital who requested the obstetrician. After a quick examination of Jocelyn, we were sent to pathology for some blood tests.
An hour later we got a call from the hospital to return ASAP. When we arrived, we were told there were irregularities in Jocelyn's blood, and were transferred to Canberra Hospital by ambulance.
A short time after arriving at the hospital, we were told Jocelyn had acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APML). The next day Jocelyn went in for a caesarean under general anaesthetic.
Whilst Jocelyn was in the operating room, I was informed that there was a chance neither would survive the operation.
However, Jocelyn and baby Samantha came through the surgery, with Jocelyn losing just under a litre of blood, much lower than anticipated.
Samantha's blood was tested for APML immediately after the birth, which also came back clear. A follow up test in May showed that Samantha has no trace of the disease.
Within a few days of starting chemotherapy treatment, Jocelyn started to experience kidney failure, severe mouth ulcers, and internal bleeding. I received a call in the middle of the night because she was bleeding heavily due to the mouth ulcers. It took the doctors almost an hour to control the bleeding.
Over the course of the following three days, Jocelyn developed dizziness, doubled vision followed by blurred vision. She became incoherent in her verbal communication and could not write in any form, to be understood. Jocelyn eventually fell unconscious and wouldn't wake up. She was rushed to ICU and put on life support.
Whilst on life support, Jocelyn developed seizures-like events and swelling on the brain. Jocelyn was on life support for approximately 11 days.
Shortly after waking up from the coma, Jocelyn was still bleeding internally. Doctors rushed her to theatre for two separate procedures, to stop the bleeding from three ulcers that were in her intestines. Thankfully the medial staff were able to get on top of it.
During all this, with help from my in-laws, I had to care for Samantha and my two older children Michelle, 5, and Rebecca, 3, whilst Jocelyn was undergoing treatment. I have been home-schooling my older children because of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Jocelyn fought through it all and finally made it through the first phase (introduction) of her treatment. Doctors informed us that due to the kidney failure, Jocelyn has approximately 10-15 per cent kidney functionality.
A bone marrow biopsy was conducted and it was deemed that the leukaemia cells were gone and Jocelyn was finally in remission. She was then discharged as an in-patient on May 13, exactly two months from being admitted into hospital. Jocelyn immediately became an out-patient to continue with the second phase (consolidation) of the treatment.
The consolidation phase consists of four cycles, each lasting 56 days (eight weeks). Within each cycle Jocelyn must continue with chemotherapy medication as well as be on a two-hour drip of arsenic trioxide on a daily basis for the first four weeks of each cycle. The second four weeks Jocelyn gets a break from the arsenic drip but will still be taking the chemotherapy medications.
At the end of the four cycles (approximately November 27), another bone marrow biopsy will take place to determine the level of leukaemia cells. If there are none, Jocelyn will be clear of APML, however she will need to take blood tests every few months over a five year period. At the end of this period, if there are no leukaemia cells, Jocelyn will be cancer-free.
We are currently staying at the Leukaemia Foundation's John James Patient Accommodation Village in Canberra for the duration of Jocelyn's treatment. I just don't know what we would've done if we hadn't had that support. I certainly wouldn't have coped.
I informed Jocelyn of the support from the entire Goulburn community through donations, the "Big Mac for Raunjaks" fundraiser and the Go-fund-me page set up on the NSW Police Legacy page.
We wanted to express our deepest and sincere thank you to everyone who has supported us.
We also wish to say a big thank you to Inspector Mathew Hinton from Goulburn Police Station, all the other officers, and Daniel Strickland from Mission Australia for everything they have done.
We can not express enough how much it means to us.
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