Hi, my name is Diana Gillmer. I live in Plumstead in Cape Town South Africa. I have a friend and her name is Audrey Sutherland, she is 35 years old and lives in Benoni in Johannesburg South Africa. We have been very good friends for many years as she lived in Cape Town for a number of years but then moved back to Johannesburg. We both share a love of dancing and we met at a ballroom dancing class. I was her bridesmaid at her wedding and I threw her a bacherlorette party. Whenever I need someone to talk to Audrey is always willing to listen and give advice. She has always been the kind of person that will do her utmost to help anyone in need, she has a love for people and animals and always had this incredible zest for life. In 2013 she found a mole on her shoulder that looked suspect and she went to a doctor, the mole was cut out and was tested and she was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. She is currently in stage 4 of the disease and has a 1 year old daughter named Amy. At the moment she is fighting for the chance to raise her beautiful daughter. I feel so helpless because I am in Cape Town and she is far away and I would really just like to give her a big hug!! Her last hope is to undergo immunotherapy treatment and her medical aid is unable to cover the huge cost of the treatment and they have asked her to raise R200 000. It is a huge sum of money but I would like to help her in any big or small way that I can. Please read the post below as it gives more insight into Audrey and what she is going through, A bank account has been opened for her so that people can donate to her cause. Please if you are able to donate that would be awesome, no matter how small. If you are able to give me any advice on how to try and raise money I would very much appreciate it. This is about getting the word out to as many people as possible.
As promised, here is the story of my cancer hiccup and the treatment palava:
In May 2013 I noticed a mole on my right shoulder changing but I was busy and rather terrified of needles and when I had two lymph nodes swell to the size of apricots by December 2013 and the mole bleeding and the size of two jelly tots, I knew something was wrong. I took two of the strongest tranquilizers the Dr would give me to brave having the mole out and two days before Christmas my world fell apart as I was told that I had at least stage 2 malignant melanoma. I was not on Medical aid and didn't have money for private treatment but was able to get a private surgeon to get me a speedy appointment at Steve Biko academic hospital for urgent surgery.
They removed a large portion of skin around the mole and 20 nodes as well as muscle and major veins and other tissue leaving me somewhat deformed but alive. I was officially diagnosed as having stage 3c malignant melanoma.
The recovery was painful and slow and eventually I started to feel normal again. They did a PET scan and when they phoned to tell me that there was no evidence of disease I burst into tears and was so greatful that this horrible nightmare was over. If only it was.
They did not want to do any sort of chemo or immunotherapy to ensure that all microscopic cancer cells were dead but chose instead to wait and see and just scan me every 3 months. The Dr told me that often in state hospitals the expensive drugs will be given on a BEE basis and I wouldn't qualify. But I thought I'd beaten it and it was ok.
Unfortunately I was never told not to fall pregnant until I had been clear for 2 years which is apparently international protocol and when I did I was thrilled. I thought I would never have children and now that I was clear the timing was perfect and life was going to be wonderful!
The Dr at Steve Biko just said that they wouldn't be able to scan me but would do my bloodwork and monitor me and if anything popped up in my nodes they would push for an early delivery and would cut the cancer out.
Two days after my daughter was born I found a lump near my surgery site. It grew daily and I quickly contacted Oncology to make an appointment. The Dr I had dealt with had left and a new student Dr took her place. The new Dr booked a scan for me and when she told me that the cancer had come back in my lung, liver, spleen and the neck node, I was beyond devastated. They offered me chemotherapy to give me a bit more time to live. With my daughter only being two months old then and my medical aid just under the waiting period for cancer I decided to get a second opinion privately.
I googled and researched who to see and found Dr Vorobiof at Sandton Oncology and went to see him. He told me that I needed immunotherapy but my medical aid would not cover it and it was in the region of R1 000 000.00 privately. He contacted the head of Oncology at Steve Biko to ask them to please give me immunotherapy but they said they could not.
It was through the research department at Sandton Oncology that I managed to get targeted gene therapy which kept the tumours at bay and even shrunk some. These meds allowed me to live at about 70% of my usual pace which was amazing.
Unfortunately they were not able to penetrate my blood brain barrier and I developed a brain tumour on my cerebellum which interferred with my motor function and speech and balance. They did immediate and intense radiation which I am currently recovering from and they plan that they will probably have to repeat every 3 months. The effects of the radiation put me in hospital and the recovery to walk again is a few weeks. The radiation will eventually kill me if the tumour doesn't first unless I can get immunotherapy. I look online to see what new trials may arrive but it's also a matter of being the right candidate to fit the trial. Some trials require failed chemotherapy, which I don't have. Some require stage 3, which I am now stage 4. My best bet is to get the current approved immunotherapy. I have bumped my medical aid up on my little income protector salary and I was told they won't cover the drug but I may apply for an exception but there will be a 10% co-payment IF they even consider it. If they don't I'm at square one, if they do, I don't have R100 000 to pay in but it might be easier to get hold of than R1 000 000.
I am very desperate to live and bring my little angel up. She is my whole world and I love her more than anything.