Last year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Australia saw 27,428 people experience a stroke for the first time in their lives with nearly a quarter of that figure experienced by people under 54 years old. The deadly condition attacks up to 1.9 million brain cells per minute and has become one of the nation’s biggest killers.
While the numbers are concerning, a figure less known are the nearly 450,000 Australians who have suffered a stroke and are now living with side effects of it. One of these people is Nigel Harland.
Harland was working long and difficult hours as an actuarialist at a Melbourne insurance firm before he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
He was stage four by the time doctors detected the cancer.
“I went through three years of treatment, including three months in hospital, but nothing was working and the cancer kept coming back.” In response, doctors informed Harland that he had three chemotherapy drugs left to try – red ones, blue ones and white ones with each one keeping him alive for six months. “... So, essentially, I potentially had 18 months to live.”
When asked which coloured drug he would like to try first, Nigel picked the blue ones. And, with his partner Anna, both packed up and left for the outskirts of Castlemaine for a new beginning.
When applying for a disability pension, Harland was required to sign a medical form which wrote that he was unlikely to live beyond a year. But this didn’t concern Harland. “I was actually elated to see those words because I figured at least it would be a year of peace. My life in Melbourne had been so stressful,” he explains.
33 years later, Harland and his partner are still in the outskirts of Castlemaine. “I took the blue pills and the cancer never came back,” Nigel says. When delving into the possibilities, he doesn’t dismiss modern medicine but remains confident that it was Anna. “Her support and love for me has been, without doubt, what kept me alive. I’m not an overly spiritual person, but sometimes, I think there are things going on in the background that you don’t quite understand.”
While the cancer never returned, Harland did suffer a stroke which caused some short-term memory loss – recalling those he met during his childhood but sometimes forgetting people he met a day earlier.
This is where MedAdvisor has really helped maintain Harland’s medication schedule. “It’s crucial, really, because I would otherwise forget when my medication was running out” Harland says.
“I would be sorting out my pills for the week in the various pill boxes and suddenly realise I only have enough until Wednesday, and then we would have to rush to the pharmacist… [Now], the app remembers for me.”
Now, Harland’s life, in every other respect, is better than ever. As a frequent traveller, bird watcher and sunset lover, Harland explains that his life now is a “permanent state of meditation… The landscape is so beautiful.”