Introduction

Sarvs Falefitu is a 40year old NZ born, Auckland bred Samoan/ Niuean. Sarvs is mother to four teenagers (Kroydon 19 years, Denae 16 years, Kendra 14 years, Grayson 13 years) and has been married to her 'Samoan warrior' for 19 1/2 years.


My gals, Denae (left) & Kendra

My boyz, Grayson (left) and Kroydon

I have breast cancer and so...

This blog has been created in the hopes that I could raise awareness of this 'evil influence that spreads dangerously', according to Collins English Dictionary, Compact Edition, to fundraise to cover the majority of my Herceptin treatment and hopefully this might help other women even in the tiniest way who might be living and dealing to breast cancer also.
I have Grade 2, HER2 positive type cancer and my cancer has moved away from the primary spot and invaded other parts of my body via my lymph vessels and blood vessels. Along with chemotherapy and radiotherapy I will also need Herceptin. NZ only funds Herceptin for 9 weeks but a full 12 months is recommended. I have opted to take the recommended 12 months and it will cost exactly $96,273.60. While some specialists are 'comfortable' with 9 weeks of Herceptin, I am not. I want to attend my teenagers graduations. I need to wave them goodbye when they go on their OE's. I wish to witness them all walk down the aisles, be present at the births of my grandchillens and finally do my big OE with my hubby too - of course without the grandchillens!!! Clearly I have far too much to live for and I implore anyone with time to please support my fundraisers or send any fundraising ideas our way.
Your support will make a lasting difference to my quality of life and I sincerely thank you all in advance for your love and support.

Accolades

Sarvs wishes to acknowledge the amazing staff at St Marks Clinic who at the early days of her breast cancer diagnosis helped and coached her through one of the darkest days of her life.Thank you Michelle, Beverley, Jenny, Tracey, the wonderful surgeons Stephen and Stan. Most importantly Sarvs would like to acknowledge 'Johnny' for having the foresight to establish a beautiful haven such as St Marks Clinic many years ago for women such as herself.


Breakdown of Herceptin costs

Since day dot Dr Mike McCrystal my oncologist has been apologetic of the horrendous Herceptin costs for HER2+ women. Nothing to apologise about Mike it is out of your hands and ours however look closely at what Pharmac and NZ Government are blissfully content in handing to a cancer patient and their loved ones -

Loading dose cost: (1 loading treatment)
Drug cost, delivery (+GST) 500mg $7018.65
Nursing $250.00
Medical $350.00
Consumables $35.00
Hospital charge $100.00
GST $969.20
Sub-total $8722.85 for loading dose at 8mg/kg

Maintenance dose cost: (13 maintenance treatments)
Drug cost, delivery (+GST) 370mg $5251.35
Nursing $250.00
Medical $350.00
Consumables $350.00
Hospital charge $100.00
GST $748.30
Total $6734.65 maintenance dose at 6mg/ kg
Overall total for full course: $96,273.60

So dealing with the diagnosis of breast cancer, losing a breast, having major surgery, being put through chemo treatment, being hospitalised 3 times, going through radiotherapy, getting through the remission period, dealing with the emotional side of this all and then having to fundraise endlessly for Herceptin do you think Pharmac or NZ Government have the right to play God with our lives?!!

31 January 2008

Accessorise

I've always loved accessories and now I get to go the whole hog i.e., shoes, handbags and headwear.
While in hospital I pulled out a huge chunk of my hair and while I have known for sometime that my crowning glory would eventually disappear from my crown, the sight of it between my fingers in my hands still reduced me to tears of sadness.

We are advised to cut our hair as short as possible before it falls out so that this part of cancer is not so traumatic and I had planned to get a 'Halle Berry' styled cut but things never went according to plan after my first chemo.Still weak from the neutropenic fever episode I took myself off to a local salon in the hopes that they could make me feel as stylish as Halle. Unfortunately the haircut didn't come with Halle's face or figure and I won't have too much time for the new style to grow on me because in a couple of weeks I will get a 'GI Jane' number 1 - literally I am malting like a house pet at the moment.
The malting is freaking out my chillens so I am wondering how they will handle it when both mum and dad are bald...LOL!!
I have cancer caps from the States that my sister and brother inlaw brought me; bandanas I got from Sylvia Park and more headwear that I purchased with the $400 grant from our Government. Now I am scouting around for earrings.....so if one cannot look like the gorgeous Halle Berry, one must then ACCESSORISE to soften the GI Jane number 1....

30 January 2008

Lock down - Ward 64, Room 4

Wednesday 23 January, day 9 after chemo just when I thought I couldn't feel any worse, I note that my temperature was rising, the throat wasn't just 'sore' anymore rather notably painful and there didn't seem to be an off button on my ole bodes plumbing system - just to put it politely.
Not wishing to alarm my family too much I ask Kroydon to drive me to Acute Oncology Unit, Auckland Hospital for 'a check up'.
10.30am: Temp, 38.4 and rising - neutropenic fever.
There was a lot of action from the time of arrival to the time I was admitted. I was again made to appreciate my life and my situation was put into perspective while listening to two very strong grandmothers, one with colon cancer and the other ovarian cancer. The tests they had to endure at their ages and dealing with the emotions of their children, their children's children I couldn't fathom. I looked on and listened not with pity but with admiration of their courage and strength.
6.00pm: Lock down - Ward 64, Room 4
Chemo kills both bad and good cells therefore any infection going round I am more than likely to pick up and then could die from if not treated immediately. Now that might sound quite drastic but unfortunately it is a reality for most cancer patients going through chemo and as one of the nurses on my ward said these situations can become life threatening. So needless to say the hospital is the safest place for us where we can be supported back to um....normality.
(NB: I spent 6 days in hospital to recover. Thanks to Ellen, Noelle, Rowan, Raji, Janet, Sandy, Rose, Arvin, Natalie and Tarina for nursing me back to good health and out of hospital.)

21 January 2008

C-H-E-C-K

(NB: if you are the squirmy type then skip this part altogether and have a groovy Monday)
Racked with constant pain throughout entire body. Check.
Little or no energy. Check.
Short bouts of nausea. Check.
Diahorrea. Check
Headaches and dizzy spells. Check-check.
Development of body rash. Check.
Tastebuds completely shot. Check (tough going for an islander...).
Sore mouth, face and scalp. Check-check-check.
Mood swings from hell. C-H-E-C-K. I think this is where much of my energy is wasted. Note to self: conserve, conserve and preserve family peace and harmony!!!
Alrighty, everything seems to be checking out so far and from my own checklist I could safely assume that the chemo is working for the better in the long run. One down, five more to go......



16 January 2008

Cancer Society

The Cancer Society provide so many services which are mostly free to those who have been diagnosed with cancer.
Look Good, Feel Better; sleep management classes and aromatherapy massages ($10 for an hour) just to name but a few. While I have not attended any of these yet, my friend and I are booked to attend these and many more over the next couple of months.
There are also counselling services available for your family and friends.
Call them or check out their website for services that will suit the needs of so many that have been affected by cancer one way or another.
Cancer Helpline 0800 800 426
or
(There are more sites you can visit by scrolling further down the left side of my blog)

15 January 2008

First Chemo Cocktail

It's sweltering outside but there's a chill in the air in one particular vehicle from the passengers side as it speeds down the motorway to make a 10:15am 'chemotherapy' appointment. The clock reads 10:06am.
At 10:11am the vehicle is parked up and the morning then becomes history as a relieved but rather frazzled virgin chemo cancer patient enters the Cancer and Blood Centre, Auckland Hospital. One soy chai latte later (the things you give up and take up after cancer) I'm standing with my hand soaking in a tub of hot water - as hot as one can take. This softens the skin and helps the oncology nurse (Elaine) find a nice vein. Two attempts later and we are in much to my relief.
Basically one is wired up to a drip for as long as it takes to get the chemo drugs flushed through your body. Hubby and I left almost 5 hours after we arrived.
At the minute (an english expression Elaine uses frequently) the side effects are tolerable - sore joints, mild and short bouts of nausea, stomach pains, swollen feet and arm and tiredness.
My bed was opposite a mature gentleman who has throat cancer and has to have treatment 3 times weekly so I am not complaining about my treatment just stating facts.
Rating: it would have to be 10/10. I was given first class treatment in the public system. It really is the people at Cancer and Blood Centre, Auckland Hospital that make all the difference.
Thanks Elaine, Georgia & Donna for making my first chemo cocktail a breeze and to hubby for putting up with me...LOL!!!


12 January 2008

The cruellest conversation

No one and nothing can ever prepare you for when you have to tell your children. My husband pleaded with me after my diagnosis to tell our children sooner rather than later. When I finally I brought myself to have one of the cruellest conversations a parent ever has to have with their children everything I rehearsed went out the window.
Sunday, 21 October 07.
When the father of your children is seated next to you, unable to contain his tears and you see the look of confusion and concern on their faces, the task ahead is near impossible.
I search for something in their eyes and to this day I have no idea what it was I was searching for, possibly an easy way out.
"I have to go away for a while to have an operation."
In unison my children ask why. After what seems like an eternity I said, "I have breast cancer."
Grayson looked at me and said, "oh gay mum" (another teenage saying that makes no sense however I understand). Tearfully I look at him, wishing that I was joking, and tell him that I'm being serious. Tears of shock, astonishment, bewilderment, fear and some hurtful monents of silence later Grayson asks me "Will you have cancer forever mum?"
What he really meant was, was I dying?
I was honest and told him that I really didn't know (which of course I really didn't know much about treatment) but assured them all that they would be kept in the loop but only if they wanted to know.
The silent tears told me that it was enough information for now.
Telling my children early on in the piece protected them from finding out from someone else which could have caused more heartbreak. Talking to them individually on a regular basis helps me gage where they at with 'mum's breast cancer'.
They are not perfect but they are fantastic children. They are the reasons why I get up in the mornings and why I won't give up hope.

My heart goes out to all mothers who would one day have to have the cruellest conversations ever to be had with their child or children. I was open, honest and positive.

10 January 2008

Getting zapped (radiotherapy)

My workplace holds some of the most amazing people I have known. The path I am heading down will no doubt be tough and the unspoken support and love from those I work with has not gone unnoticed. Thank you, you know who you are....!!!!
Today is another day off work for appointments, the main one being the radiotherapy meeting.
In brief I need radiotherapy after chemo as while the cancer has been removed and chemo will kill any cancer cells in my body, radiotherapy specifically targets the primary spot where the cancer originated.
Before I start radiotherapy I will go in for 'set up' where they will tattoo me around the area needing attention so that I get zapped in the exact same spot everyday.
I cheekily asked the radiologist Dr Benjiman, if I could look at the tattoo samples...he chuckles loudly and says no pretty butterflies just small pinhead marks...oh well it was worth a try!!
I will have 25 sessions of radiotherapy in total, for approximately 10 minutes each week day over 5 weeks I will go in, get zapped and off again.
The main side effect will be tiredness and Dr Benjiman advises me that hair loss won't be a side effect. I laugh as I will still be bald from chemo so it will make no difference.

I start chemo treatment Tuesday 15 January and 'anxiety' has become my unwanted but familiar friend....

09 January 2008

The Adminsitrator

What was I thinking!!! I am the 'administrator' of this Blog now, and boy... my sistra Sarvs has done such a good job on it.. I have NO idea how I can add value.. other than.. just typing.. so .. here I go...

Okay, well i'll cut to the chase. The race is on!!!

If you are reading this, it means you have been blessed with the 'link' .. Yes, the one that led you to Sarv's page and the story of the 'Challenge' that she has been dealt... BUT!! Hold on.. it isn't for her to fight on her own... She has a great team of helpers..... surrounding her.. and we are all here to lend that little bit of a helping hand... (With Gods guidance and Grace to Boot!!!!).

So... Drop me a line if you have any ideas... Make that little 'gift and offering' of love by banking (whatever you can afford!!!) into Sarv's acct... (remember.. every little bit counts).

Finally.. please take note and come along to our fundraiser events.... Watch this space...

I'm hoping this will come up on the 'left' hand side of the Blogg.. otherwise.. my days as the 'Blog Admin' will be limited.

Okay.. alofaz to you.. and i'll be seeing you.. VERY SOON!!!



Margz.

A day of mixed blessings

Hubby and I attended chemo orientation today which was extremely informative.
Cancer outpatients are each given cancer packs which include some of the following -
- information sheets on chemo drugs
- cancer support contact details
- information sheet on side effects
- wig form
- Look Good, Feel Better info and form

I cast a curious glance around the room and note cancer has ensnared lives from all walks of life, all age groups and different ethnic backgrounds. Cancer is not discriminative.

Approximately 2 hours later I leave armed with more knowledge ready for the next cancer related appointment. Friday 11 January I am off to meet the radiologist to discuss radiotherapy treatment.

Hours later I am making calls to Kawerau and Ohope to thank more wonderful people for their huge donation to my cause.
Thank you and much love to the Leitner family, the Stewart family and the Bonne family.

07 January 2008

Ribbons in the Sky


While waiting at St Marks Breast Clinic for the results of my tests that morning on October 18, 2007 my memory was instantly cast back a month earlier when my oldest daughter Denae came home raving about an 'old school' song she had heard, that I would know but didn't know what it was called. Finally she found the title of the song and played it to me. I had not heard Ribbon in the Sky by Stevie Wonder since I was in college and immediately a rush of nostalgia came over me and for no reason I was quite teary.
So I kid you not when I share that about a month later waiting in St Marks Breast Clinic flipping through a mag and trying hard not to worry that exact song played ever so quietly in the background but heavily on my heart because I knew at the exact moment when I it played it was a sign because the same emotions I had experienced about a month ago overcame me again....the tears flowed freely down my cheeks as I thought of my daughter and the rest of my family...sing it Stevie...

What does January bring for me?

Next up blood tests are completed to ensure mainly that I am not a silent Hepatitis B carrier otherwise it will literally be the death of me at the start of chemo.
Following this an appointment with the radiologist to discuss radiotherapy further.
Week after more scans - chest, abdominal and a bone scintigram hoping that there is no trace of cancer there.
More clinic visits to see my breast care nurse and surgeons who will be monitoring me closely over the next two years - more to come on that front I am sure!
And of course fingers crossed I might get started on my chemo treatment which will be completed in the public system, unless I win the 'big lotto' and then I will go private. Donations will be returned back to the loving owners and funds raised will be donated to cancer groups....back to reality though sleep is now on the agenda (something I don't get much of nowadays).

02 January 2008

Resolution 2008...


'Resolution noun, determination, firmness, perseverance, purpose, steadfastness, tenacity, willpower...'
For as long as I can remember I made new resolutions every New Year's Eve to break them a few days after New Year's Day. Now looking it up in the dictionary I am completely blown away with its meaning.
I am determined to win my battle with cancer. I am firm on that and everything else will fall into place as I allow it.
Bring it 2008...!!!