It started with a strange tightness in his chest, but deteriorated into intense pain over the course of a few months.
As a fit and healthy 27-year-old, Daniel Hartley, of Youngtown, had never experienced anything like it. He knew something wasn't right.
"The worst pain was mainly in my chest, ribs and shoulders. It felt like someone had dug their hands into my chest and they were just trying to tear my ribs apart," he said.
"One night I remember waking up and having this crazy pain my chest. It felt like I was having a heart attack."
He underwent countless tests in September 2018 but doctors could not find the answer. After a week in various wards at the Launceston General Hospital, a doctor told him to go home.
"I was like, what do you mean? I was in pain, I was in shock, I was a bit beside myself and lost the plot then, had a good chat to the nurse, she said give us a minute and we'll see what we can do," Mr Hartley said.
The nurse's persistence paid off, and Mr Hartley got an appointment with a rheumatologist.
There was one clue, though. The only medication that gave him relief was the anti-inflammatory drug Ketorolac.
Within days he had his diagnosis: acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which was giving him inflammation of the bone marrow.
He started chemotherapy soon after.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Mr Hartley said it was all a blur.
"There's probably two or three months around that time when I barely remembered anything, it's just a crazy turn of events going from being a healthy young lad to just being incapacitated and starting chemotherapy," he said.
After the second successful round of chemotherapy, Mr Hartley underwent a stem cell transplant.
He recovered well, but then developed bad muscle pain and cramping. His old blood cells were fighting the new cells, and in March last year he was diagnosed with graft versus host disease.
"I get it pretty much all over my body - hands, arms, legs, feet, back and neck, down my jaw," Mr Hartley said.
From March, he will fly to Melbourne once a week for four months for dialysis-type treatment.
Hoping to give back to the Leukaemia Foundation
From providing taxi and food vouchers during his first stay at the LGH, to setting up accommodation for himself and his wife near the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, the Leukaemia Foundation has spent thousands of dollars supporting Mr Hartley in his cancer battle.
He said his recovery would not have been possible without the Foundation helping him have a family member close by during treatment.
"I'd lost all my muscle mass and body mass, I was tired all the time so I wouldn't have even been able to get through it if I didn't have someone there with me," Mr Hartley said.
"I just wouldn't have made it without them."
To give back, Mr Hartley will participate in the World's Greatest Shave on March 14, wanting to help others receive the same level of support.
"You think you've got it pretty rough being a 28-year-old bloke going through this, but I can understand why, I can understand the science behind it all, why I feel the way I do, but a young kid going through something like that they don't have any idea why anything like that is happening to them," he said.
"I think I'm one of the lucky ones really."
Blood cancer has become the second most diagnosed cancer in Australia, and the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths.
The Leukaemia Foundation has seen a 30 per cent increase in demand for its services, while suffering a 30 per cent loss of income in 2020 due to the effects of COVID-19.
To donate to Daniel Hartley's cause, click here.