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?!!

27 February 2008

Chin wag with my local rag

I would normally shy away from the public eye but when one needs to raise big money to fund their own anti cancer drug you do what you need to do without a second thought.
The opportunity to be interviewed on air (radio), an interview with my local rag (Western Leader) and a story on Maori Television (to be aired at a later date) I am now thinking of hitting up Mark or John for more exposure. ..!!

I am both nervous and excited about my walkathon but I look forward to seeing you there.
Again I sincerely thank you all from the bottom of my heart for giving up your time to 'walk the distance for me'..and to my wonderful fundraising committee for organising it all!!
I was fortunate to have the Western Leader print my story.
Please note that my walkathon will run from 6am (for the early early birds) through to midday, Saturday 1st March 2008.

Here is the link for the online version of my story -
http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/4418029a22402.html

25 February 2008

Chemo brain

What is chemo brain? Very similiar to mummy brain I would say except that I think chemo does kill off more than 3/4 of ones brain cells..!
After only two chemo cocktails, chemo brain is in full force around at my brain. How do I know? Well let's see...
1. when you forget you have appointments (all 3 on the same day or was it I forgot what day it was?),
2. you continuously misplace your phone (with all your appointments programmed in it),
3. you misplace your diary (with all appointment cards and blood test appointments written in there),
4. you triple book yourself for different appointments on the same day,
5. you forget where you parked your car, spending almost 30 minutes walking around in a mindless panic in one of Auckland's biggest shopping places and you're almost reduced to tears because "everyone just knows I have chemo brain" (cuckoo sounds in your head going off),
6. you start forgetting quite regularly, for split seconds the names of your teenagers,
7. and why you cannot get the Mitsubishi car key into the Toyota car lock; OMG the keys are shaped entirely different too..!!
Then you should have some idea that you have chemo brain!!!
(NB: I am daring to share just some of my memory relapses that I can remember and the ones shared are not necessarily in order...coz I have forgotten the order they happened...LOL...seriously!)
I have my desk calendar both at home and work, my calendar on my phone and my diary so I really don't know what else there is to do apart from tattooing on my forehead everything I need to remember and all the places I need to be at! A friend of mine suggested a palm pilot but I would only misplace that too...what a hoot!

Unfortunately at this stage of my journey I have no life changing tips for women out there who might have to walk this tragic path shortly as sadly it is part and parcel of cancer however I will look back on all of this after my treatment is finished with a great bottle of 'Rockburn Pinot Noir' surrounded by great company and great music laughing my 'post chemo brain' off!!!
(PS: I will always remember that this is a bloodee niiiice drop)

16 February 2008

Strike the pose

A friend of ours will be exhibiting his art at the Waitakere Open Studio Weekend on Sunday 2 March 2008 from 10am - 4pm which is being run by the Waitakere Central Community Arts Council (WCC-AC). It will be held up at "The Studio" at CEAC, 426 Great North Road, Henderson.

What has this go to do with my cancer blog, you ask? Ever-ree-thaang of course!!
Our friend will be commissioning a couple of art pieces and will kindly donate them to support our fundraising for my anti cancer drug Herceptin. And yes I am plugging our Artsville ahead of schedule so if you are or have been on the lookout for 'that particular piece', come on down to see a very generous and talented artist at work.

Another sample of our friend's work...(and no it is not my husband modelling)....
Like what you see then check out the following sites -

10 February 2008

A very BIG shout out...!!!

Daily I am constantly reminded of cancer and most days majority of the time I will find something to celebrate. Today I celebrated the fact that people I don't even know and have never met made a life changing impact in my life.
Fa'afetai tele lava to the 'tu meke' peeps from NZ Post, CourierPost (ECL), ACP, International, NZPost Business Direct/ Sales for your act of kindness. The funds you raised will gratefully go towards my anti cancer drug fund.
In particular a very special thank you to the 'instigator' and the 'other challenger' for unwittingly setting 2 challenges in motion, reducing me to tears and coming up trumps in my books!!

Thank you for being a part of my journey; your generosity and selflessness (can't find my dictionary, is there such a word..blame the chemo brain?) has been overwhelming and no doubt I will continue to experience this time and time again....when I reach my target goal and the drugs have all been pumped into my body it will be the actions of everyone that will remain with me for life.

08 February 2008

Zoning

Immediately after my diagnosis I was surrounded by breast surgeons, breast care nurses, specialists, oncologists etc etc etc. I have been in great company with people who are familiar with cancer. It is part of their lives. It's how they make a living.
I have always referred to it as 'the safe zone'. I was in the same zone leading up to my first chemo cocktail surrounded by professionals who care for cancer patients and my loving supportive family and friends who care, fullstop.
Everything I had been doing over the past 3 months has been done in my safe zone including time with family and friends, shopping, sporting, schooling activities, you know everyday living. Of course this was all done with a whole mass of black curly hair, (okay give or take a few strands of wisdom grey). I don't believe my hair has really defined who I am as a person but it is a part of my make up and my identity.
So today while lunching with long time friends I suddenly had an anxiety attack when I realised that my patchy scalp was partly exposed under my turban. I am not sure what I was more upset about really. Was it that people may have noticed my patchy scalp or that I felt so completely naked (OMG perish the thought!!!). Either way it was the longest few minutes ever and I felt at that moment I was losing my identity to cancer - 'the danger zone'.
After checking myself out in the bathroom, some reassurance from my friends and a lovely Banarama Cake from the manager of Cafe Massimo, New Lynn I finally arrived back to 'the safe zone'.
It is only hair and it will grow back but it's not being able to control this part of my life that frustrates and upsets. Even with my mastectomy and a couple chemo treatments suddenly without my hair the cancer has become more real...strange but true.
Today is day 4 after my second chemo cocktail and while the side effects have not been as unbearable the pains, aches, tiredness, nausea feeling and the dark moments have arrived...this is when I have to really dig deep and believe that beauty is within and I am winning this evil.
It's been a tough week as I am forced to watch the faces of my beautiful family adjust so lovingly to the ever changing battlefield of the cancer but I take great comfort in knowing that many inspirational women in this 'sisterhood' have walked before me, fought a great battle, lived to share their experiences and with family.
I will be one of these women.

Time permitting next week I am off to Wigs by HairCreation to have my head shaven just so I can move on and complete the quest ahead of me.

06 February 2008

Fa'afetai lava to Radio 531PI

I was privileged to be invited to speak for 5-7 minutes on Radio 531Pi which was hosted by Jeff Ka on the morning of my second chemo cocktail. I was slotted in at approximately 8:45am Tuesday 5 February.

I am not sure if I answered the actual questions asked of me.
I am sure I kept repeating myself.
I did sound like I had frogs lodged in my throat a few times.
And true to form I abolished the english language a number of times and I couldn't fault Jeff at all because he is a professional and did a wonderful job at ensuring the interview questions ran in a logical order, it was my nervous nerves (lol) but seriously the exposure I was given and the opportunity to share my experience I am sincerely thankful for.

Fa'afetai lava to everyone at Radio 531PI that made this opportunity a reality (and to my sister's friend with the connections who got the ball rolling).

05 February 2008

MAMMOGRAMS


Mammograms are completed by an x-ray of the breast to detect cancers that are tiny and before they can be felt.
Screening mammograms are performed to ‘screen’ for signs of change of the breasts or cancer. Where there is concern of a lump a screening diagnostic mammogram is used to help make a diagnosis.
The larger the breast lump the greater the risk that the cancer could have spread beyond the breast.

9 out of 10 breast lumps and breast changes are found to be harmless so early and regular breast examinations and mammograms can reduce the risk of breast cancer.

I chose to ignore the discharge of the nipple for a couple of months and then when I found the lump I was already at stage 2.
I was ignorant to breast cancer but since my diagnosis I will always encourage women of all ages to go and spend $100-$160 (depending where you choose to go) for peace of mind. We spend that in one shopping spree alone so why not really treat yourself.
The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundations website is both educational and highly recommended to view.
For the sake of saving all the heartache take a moment to check out other information on their website.