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Leukaemia Foundation: Support available to anyone, anywhere, impacted by blood cancer

Currently, there are 135,000 Australians living with blood cancer, and this year alone, 19,500 Australians will be newly diagnosed with the disease.

With incidence soaring 47 per cent in the past 10 years, it is predicted that by 2035 the number of Australians diagnosed with blood cancer will double. (1)

While blood cancer can affect individuals of all ages, certain types of blood cancer are more commonly diagnosed in older populations. In 2023, 88 per cent of all blood cancer cases in Australia are among those aged 50 and over. (1)

As the Australian population continues to age, it becomes increasingly important to understand the unique challenges and considerations associated with blood cancers in older persons. Research, advocacy and the development of treatment options play a crucial role in addressing blood cancers in this aged group and improving their quality of life.

Unfortunately, unlike other cancer types, blood cancer cannot be prevented through lifestyle changes or screened for, and devastatingly, it can strike anyone at any time.

Diagnosis of blood cancers is reliant on individuals, their loved ones, or their health care teams being aware of the symptoms of blood cancer and commencing investigation as soon as possible.

Blood cancer symptoms that people should be aware of include persistent tiredness, dizziness, anaemia, frequent or repeated infections, increased or unexplained bleeding or bruising, bone pain or kidney damage, and a high calcium level in the blood.

Common types of blood cancers

  • Leukaemia: this blood cancer originates in the bone marrow and affects the production of blood cells. Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) are the most common subtypes of leukaemia in older adults.

  • Lymphoma: lymphoma is a cancer that affects the lymphatic system, including lymph nodes and the spleen. Many of the subtypes of lymphoma are more common in older individuals than in younger populations.

  • Myeloma: myeloma, or multiple myeloma, affects plasma cells in the bone marrow. This cancer is more frequently diagnosed in older adults.

The Leukaemia Foundation’s support and services

The Leukaemia Foundation offers Australians impacted by blood cancer access to wrap around health services and support from the moment they are diagnosed, during treatment, and throughout their journey to remission and beyond.

With close to 50 years of working with the community to help solve the unique challenges faced by people with blood cancer, the Leukaemia Foundation works with individuals, their loved ones and carers, and healthcare professionals to ensure that every person facing blood cancer can access specialised support and services.

According to the Leukaemia Foundation, seven in 10 people face emotional challenges after finding out they have blood cancer,2 and almost 40 per cent of people have a lot of questions or feel completely uncertain about their diagnosis. (2)

The introduction of Australia’s first and only dedicated blood cancer support line in 2022 has ensured that the Leukaemia Foundation’s experienced blood cancer support professionals, and diverse range of services and support, are easily accessible to everyone impacted by blood cancer.

Statistically, 75 per cent of Australians who have connected with the Leukaemia Foundation’s blood cancer support professionals in the last 12 months have felt understood and well-supported,3 showing the critical importance of this ongoing service.

The services and support available at the Leukaemia Foundation include:

  • Emotional support: qualified and understanding Blood Cancer Support Coordinators are available to support people through the rollercoaster of diagnosis, treatment, survivorship or grief and loss. This support is confidential, personalised and can be accessed over the phone, online or in person.

  • Health and wellbeing support: lifestyle factors such as diet, nutrition and exercise improve quality of life at any stage of blood cancer and help side effects such as pain and fatigue. The Leukaemia Foundation’s range of health, wellbeing and education programs are custom-designed by experts to provide easy-to-follow tips, advice and the latest information to help you live well with blood cancer. People can access information and education services in various formats, including booklets, webinars and seminars.

  • Practical support: blood cancer can have a huge impact on every aspect of a person’s daily life, including work, family life, relationships and financial pressures. Blood cancer support professionals will work with patients to access support to ease the stresses of everyday life so that they can focus on their health and wellbeing. This support includes financial grants, transport and accommodation services.

Online support groups: meeting and sharing with other people who understand what you are going through can be incredibly empowering, whether you have blood cancer, are a carer or have lost someone. Experienced Blood Cancer Support Coordinators facilitate Leukaemia Foundation support groups in a private, safe and supportive environment.

  • Making connections: patients, carers and loved ones can also connect with others impacted by blood cancer through Leukaemia Foundation private blood cancer Facebook groups and community events.

  • Advocacy: the Leukaemia Foundation campaigns for change by raising funds for life-saving research and advocating for better diagnostics, greater access to new treatments, and, ultimately, better outcomes for all Australians living with blood cancer.

Anyone impacted by blood cancer, or healthcare professionals, can contact Australia’s blood cancer support line Monday to Friday by calling 1800 620 420 or visiting

Martin’s blood cancer experience

Martin Boling is 72 years old and was diagnosed with myeloma, a form of blood cancer, 23 years ago. Martin and his wife Patricia have accessed the Leukaemia Foundation support services including blood cancer support groups and information resources.

When Martin went into hospital, he was surprised to discover his sister’s father-in-law was in the same ward. He also had myeloma and was having a bone marrow transplant, a procedure that replaces blood stem cells in people whose bone marrow has been destroyed by chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.

Four months later, Martin’s younger brother, Adam, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). In February 2001, Martin was recovering after an autologous stem cell transplant, as was Adam, who’d had an allogeneic stem cell transplant. Sadly, Adam passed away from blood cancer while Martin was still in hospital.

Bone marrow and blood stem cell transplantation (commonly referred to as stem cell transplant) is used to treat a range of diseases. In short, a stem cell transplant is necessary to ensure that the bone marrow is repopulated with healthy blood stem cells following high-dose treatment. The new blood stem cells will rebuild the body’s blood and immune systems.

Another family member, Martin’s cousin Brett, was also diagnosed with myeloma about 10 years ago. And, more recently, Martin’s wife Patricia found out she has chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), which she is currently managing with medication.

“I thought blood cancer was quite a rare disease, but it’s touched our lives in quite a few different areas,” Patricia said.

On finding information about blood cancer and supporting others affected by the disease:

“I have made sure I went to reputable sources,” said Martin, and this included information from the Leukaemia Foundation, including the information booklet, Myeloma – A Guide for People with Myeloma, which they picked up at the hospital.

“It was very helpful, and helpful to us as a family, we read it from cover to cover a couple of times,” said Patricia.

Martin has also attended myeloma support groups at the Leukaemia Foundation’s accommodation centre in Canberra and he volunteers, providing peer support and insights on his experiences with myeloma.

“I think it’s important for me, as someone who is a long-term survivor, to be talking to people who are in the early stages of trying to cope with things,” said Martin.

You are not alone

“We were brought up to be very independent and not to ask for help, but people are keen to help, and you’ve got to learn to say, ‘yes, thank you’,” Patricia said.

“We needed a bereavement counsellor when we lost Martin’s brother, and when we thought we were going to lose Martin,” said Patricia.

“A big message is that you don’t have to do it alone,” Martin added.

After multiple rounds of treatment, Martin is currently in remission and is doing well. Looking back over the last 23 years, Martin said, “It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster”, but with more ups than downs, and now he’s enjoying a plateau.

“I try not to let it get me down, but I know I’m living on borrowed time. Even for a member of the normal population to be, as I am, 72 plus years is doing pretty well,” he said.

“My oncologist is pleased and thinks I’m his ‘longest surviving patient’, as in longest living with myeloma, for which I thanked him.”


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