No more “stressing”, says young leukemia survivor

Harper with the members of the 7pm Project, 2010. Photo Darren Vowels.
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A young Melbourne man says he is all the more optimistic after surviving a life-threatening cancer of blood-forming tissues. Benjamin Millard reports.
Harper with the members of the 7pm Project, 2010. Photo Darren Vowels.

A battle against leukaemia in his childhood has been the trigger for a new attitude towards life for a Highett-based law student.

Harper Vowles, 20, says that his difficult experience with the life-threatening illness has given him a fresh outlook on living.

“I’ve always been an optimist,” he says, “but having cancer and beating it has shown me that some issues and problems in my life aren’t worth stressing over when compared to what I went through.”

He was first diagnosed after he had to have fluid drained from his leg as a result of a soccer accident in 2009.

The blood test for the drainage unexpectedly came back showing leukaemia, and from then on everything was “a blur” for Mr Vowles.

According to Cancer Australia, in 2018 alone there were 3967 new cases of leukaemia diagnosed. In the same year, 1884 people passed away as a result of the cancer.

Family was a huge factor in pushing through the taxing treatments, with his extended family always lending a hand, whether it be staying overnight in hospital with Mr Vowles, or even providing accommodation when he wanted to leave the hospital.

Harper Vowels. Photo Benjamin Millard.

However in time, Mr Vowles learned that the leukaemia was slowly disappearing. He was responding positively to chemotherapy and other treatments.

There were still minor setbacks from reactions from different treatments, one of which was a small stroke-like reaction where he lost feeling in one half of his body.

The conclusion of primary school for Mr Vowles was relatively smooth, and so was his transition into high school.

Then, in November of 2012, he was officially in remission.

His mother, Cath Dight, backs up her son’s unwavering spirit and recalls an occasion when it was put on show.

“One time he had a treatment which involved two needles to the thighs without painkillers or numbing cream. He sat there and only one tear rolled down his cheek throughout the whole process.”

“He will always be my hero.”

Mr Vowles’ passion for day-to-day activities also wasn’t hindered exclaims Ms Dight, as he always participated in sport and other pastimes despite his health.

Nowadays, life is one of normality for Harper Vowles, though his perception of it has changed for the better.