It is with great sadness that BCAC farewells and pays tribute to Mangalika Mendis, one of the tremendously brave women who fought for full access to the breast cancer drug Herceptin.
Sadly, Mangalika died in Australia in July 2013, leaving behind her husband Ruchitha and daughter Medhavie.
BCAC chair, Libby Burgess, says Mangalika was a special person who fought hard to see New Zealand women receive a fully-funded treatment programme of 12 months of Herceptin.
Mangalika, a trained doctor, worked with BCAC from 2006 when Herceptin was not funded in New Zealand, despite the fact it had been shown to be hugely effective in treating women with HER2-Positive breast cancer.
Mangalika was fighting her own battle with HER2-Positive breast cancer and needed Herceptin herself. At that time, women who needed the treatment were either having to fund it for themselves at great expense or go without and have a reduced chance of survival.
Libby says strong advocacy was needed from brave women with HER2-positive breast cancer to ensure that New Zealand women received 12 months treatment with Herceptin.
“Mangalika ‘stood up to be counted’ to help us fight this battle. She was a very special person – highly intelligent, very articulate and always gracious. She worked closely with the BCAC Committee to let the public know what was at stake and to convince the government to do the right thing,” Libby says.
“She then joined seven other women with HER2-Positive breast cancer in challenging PHARMAC through a Judicial Review to overturn their decision not to fund Herceptin. She took the microphone on the steps of Parliament to share her story and to explain the need for funding to our media and politicians.
“She played a huge and vital part in our struggle to have this important medicine funded. We were eventually successful thanks to Mangalika and a few other very special women,” says Libby.
Fellow campaigner, BCAC deputy chair, Chris Walsh says, “Mangalika saw an injustice and wanted to set it right. She was part of the team of Herceptin Heroines. I am very sad to hear she has passed way. But her spirit and her place in New Zealand history will always remain.”
Former BCAC committee member Claire Ryan says, “Mangalika was an inspiration to others with breast cancer and as a doctor. We have so much for which to thank her. My thoughts and prayers are with her family.”
Another former BCAC committee member, Anne Hayden, says “I was so sorry to learn of Mangalika's passing. She was a wonderful and talented woman with a lovely family, all of whom touched our hearts. The one benefit of getting breast cancer was the opportunity to meet amazing people like Mangalika.”
Everyone involved with BCAC loved and respected Mangalika. She made a very important and lasting contribution to the advancement of breast cancer treatment for New Zealand women so she has left a fine legacy for our country. We will remember her always and we will miss her terribly.