My name is Melissa Murphy and I am a 44 year old mum with 4 wonderful children, Shannon 11 yrs, Gabrielle 8 yrs, Kimberly 6 yrs, Josiah 4 yrs and a loving husband, Stuart.
After hearing from a friend about her experience with breast cancer, I became concerned about a lump. On 13 December 2007, I decided to see my family doctor, who recommended that I go and see a specialist. As it was too long to wait till January with a public specialist, I went private to have peace of mind over the Christmas break. However on 19 December 2007, being told the test results are back and the lump is cancerous was the last thing I expected and a shock. I fit into the low risk group, everything was going for me, no family history having breast fed all four children, non drinker or smoker. I am fit and healthy, doctor’s visits were a very rare occurrence.
Now I had to come to terms with this disease. First I was in shock not knowing what had I done to deserve this? During this time my husband, family, extended family and close friends were a great strength to me. My emotions were on a roller coaster. Our Pastor was a great support at this time. He came over and prayed with us and tried to help us come to terms with this invasion of our lives. I started to understand that I have to live for today and that yesterday are gone and to give God tomorrow as He is in total control and there is nothing I need to worry about. This sounded hard but gradually I learned to not worry or feel stressed out, God is Bigger than all these circumstances. I now have a peace that whatever I need to endure, whatever treatment I have to go through, God is in control.
Finally after several weeks and several specialist appointments, I had the mastectomy and tram flap reconstruction on 15th February 2008. I had a lot of friends and family praying for me as the operation went on, the lymph nodes was clear so only two were removed. The recovery was a painful journey but I did exceptionally well. The surgeons were very pleased with my progress. They said that I am above average in recovery comparing with other women going through the same surgery. God’s grace, mercy and strength have enabled me to endure.
I am a very independent person not liking to rely on people too much. It was very frustrating that I had to totally rely on people for many things I took for granted I could do. When you are in need your friends rally around you. God has shown me that when I need help he will bring along the right people at the right time. During this time, our family here and abroad, home school family, close friends and church were fantastic strength and support.
On 2nd April 2008, I had an appointment with the oncologist. Just when I thought the worst was behind me, the oncologist told me that some more tests had come back on the lump that had been removed, another big shock, the cancer was HER2 Positive. I was told that I would need between $80,000 to $100,000 for the drug Herceptin on top of the chemotherapy and hormone treatment. During the course of two weeks, I received numerous calls from the oncologist who could not finalise the type of chemotherapy drugs to use and also the quote for the Herceptin changes from 90,000 to 66,000. It was a very confusing, overwhelming time having to try and reprocess all the different information only to have it change again.
This started a lot of research and lots of trying to decide what to do? We are a single income family with a mortgage and four children, how do we come up with NZ$66,000. Is this treatment really necessary? Why does only New Zealand fund 9 weeks when the other 31 countries using Herceptin fund 1 year ?
Letters and phone calls followed some more helpful than others but not really getting very far. Then I thought about it and had a revelation – If I lived in any other country I would not need to make this decision. The whole situation is because of money. God promises to provide everything we need in abundance.
The consensus from the people we have talked to, those either going through treatment now or in the past, from several doctors and oncologists all except one recommended taking the full year. This is the decision we have made as I am still young and have four young children to think of. I need to be responsible for my family and do what I can in the natural, and leave the supernatural to God, and seeing my children grow up and be there for them.
Finally, on 24 April 2008, I started my 1st cycle of Taxotere Chemotherapy with Herceptin. It has been a very rough ride with the Chemotherapy, hitting the “Jackpot” and having every single side effect in the book. I was in and out of hospital for 14 days during the first two cycles. It has been a test of long suffering and endurance and I wonder when all this is going to end; the nausea, mouth ulcers, swollen gland, throbbing headache, etc. During this time my family and friends were a great support to me and my family. I could not even look after the basic needs of my family. It was a relief that I finally can see a light at the end of this dark tunnel, when the side effects begin to minimise from the 3rd cycle onwards. I was cruising through until 5th cycle then I caught a bug on my 6th cycle and back in hospital again for 7 days. So glad that the Chemotherapy journey is now finished. Started on my 1st dose of private Herceptin on 3 September 2008. The side effects are minimal; I am just aching all over my body and tired.
Some days I get very weary and can’t wait for this long journey to finish. But I am learning to live just one day at a time. To ENJOY TODAY and GIVE GOD TOMORROW. I have learnt to value life and relationships more and letting go things that did not matter. It has not been easy having to deal with the sickness, and to have to fundraise for a treatment that should be government funded. This came out of the blue, I had no warning and could do nothing to stop it! PHARMAC should fund drugs that deal with sicknesses that are not self-inflicted. Maybe PHARMAC should look at some of the ridiculous things they fund for diseases that are caught or self-inflicted and take some of that funding and give it to the people who have no control over their sicknesses that come upon them.