AT THE start of last year, Bruce Atkinson began experiencing some discomfort in his stomach.
When it did not abate, his doctor ran some tests with the expectation the pain might be related to his gallbladder.
"But instead, the tests came back with strong indicators of myeloma," Mr Atkinson, 57, said.
"They had me into a haematologist within days, and my diagnosis was confirmed relatively quickly after that."
The father-of-two from Thornton has multiple myeloma - a blood cancer with no known cause, and no known cure.
He said its rarity meant there had been little research done into the disease, and its survival rates could vary from two years to more than 10.
"There was the immediate sense of dread, of course, and then coming to terms with my diagnosis," he said.
"But the next stage that hits people is that you are just bombarded with tests, scans and information coming from every direction.
"Then it all settles down, and you can look at the options from that point."
Mr Atkinson began chemotherapy within weeks of his diagnosis.
He also underwent a stem cell transplant.
But while he is now feeling well, and is back working full time as an engineer, it was a "waiting game".
"There is a general expectation in society these days that if you are diagnosed with a cancer, that it is not necessarily a death sentence," he said.
"You hope that there is some sort of potential treatment available to potentially cure it.
"But the reality is that, with myeloma, it isn't the case.
"Myeloma is a little bit different to many cancers.
"It doesn't have a cure of any sort - it basically relies on management, for as long as it can be managed. That is why the treatments and drug regimes they use are quite critical to give people with myeloma as long as possible."
Mr Atkinson shared his story following the news early stage myeloma patients could now access a "triplet therapy" drug regime via the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
"The drug reimbursement won't mean a lot to me, as I am already through that first stage of the treatment," Mr Atkinson said. "But it will mean patients who are newly diagnosed will have a greater range of options available - particularly if they have access to drugs that are known to have the best impact in the early stages of the disease."
He encouraged people to support Myeloma Australia - a small organisation with "fantastic outreach".
"We have two specialised myeloma nurses in Newcastle at the Calvary Mater," he said. "We also have support groups locally."
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