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?!!

28 March 2008

It is time....

After my first FEC regime I was a tired washed up wreck unable to find a place of solace - my bedroom felt like a mortuary. It was a common sight to find me sprawled out on our bed fighting the exhausting fatigue and never ending nausea with limited or no energy. And shucks I was a pyscho on steriods...fortunately my adorable family know after chemo I am a different person and am left to get through the side effects. I don't like the FEC side effects more fatigue, constant feeling of nausea and body spasms or pins and needles in both feet and hands.
And just quietly (?!)fighting the unwanted demons inside my head after this chemo round, I will be the first to admit that it is now time to take up the social worker service offered by the Cancer Society. I maybe stubborn but I am not stupid and even I recognise the signs when it is time for that extra support by the professionals.
I will get another perspective on life with cancer and I can be as pyscho as I need to be without feeling like a complete tosser!

24 March 2008

BABY LUAMANUVAE (due 17 April 2008)


Sone & I have known Sarvs for many years and we are blessed to be able to help her. We are awaiting the arrival of a precious baby girl and are selling bids for her name to fundraise for Sarvs' treatment. We would love for you to help us find a beautiful Samoan or English name her. You can place a bid for a name that is special to you or you think we may like. A $50.00 bid per name would be fantastic, however any contribution would be greatly appreciated. Once she is born we will then choose a name from the list and if lucky, it could be your name we have selected! We would prefer not to know the names on the list until she is born. Get thinking about baby names and start making bids, we can't wait to see a huge list and raise lots of money for Sarvs.

To register a name please contact Liz on liz.murray.nz@flightcentre.co.nz or twobirdleg@xtra.co.nz and I will send further information.

20 March 2008

Look Good Feel Better

A couple of months ago my darling friend and I were privileged to have attended a wonderful workshop, Look Good Feel Better which was held at the Cancer Society in Auckland.
Imagine a room full of complete strangers with cancer sporting either scarves, bandanas, turbans or naked (beautiful and bald) meeting for the very first and perhaps the last time being pampered for free by generous volunteers who wanted to make the day special for us.
In between much laughter and talking, step by step we're taken through a face cleansing regime followed by a make up session helped along by experienced volunteers.
As I glanced around I was once again reminded of the cruelty of cancer and because of cancer there I was with women from all walks of life who were being inconvenienced by the disease. I could silently relate to each women one way or another and when I took off my turban to reveal my patchy scalp not one women looked at me in horror. I felt so at home and comfortable in a room full of strangers. Only a woman who has cancer can know and understand the feeling of belonging to a 'sisterhood' such as this.
I met some more wonderful women that day and I was so proud to be in such wonderful company even it is because of cancer.
At the end of the session we all got to take home a goodie bag full of expensive cosmetics, some wonderful memories and snapshots of history for ourselves.
Walking out to the foyer I hardly recognise any of the women who are now completely made up sporting sexy new wigs shooting off to lunch.
I loved the experience and like every other women who has attended this workshop am grateful to the woman who started it off many years ago.
(PS: as you can see I am still wired from the steriods and am still zinging out at 5:15am...!!)

I am FECing it now...

My cousin's wife Lizzie who is heavily pregnant was my companion for chemo cocktail number 4. It was a mini girls day out catching up in between flicking through gossip mags, munching on lollies and nuts, drinking coffee, laughing, texting, looking at photos and swapping hilarious hen's night stories - the normal things gals do when they get together except we're at the Cancer and Blood Services, Day Stay Oncology Unit. It was perfect that morning having Lizzie there as the morning started off badly. Soaking my arm in hot water twice I knew that it wouldn't be smooth sailing. The first attempt at finding a vein was very painful, it was like someone had crawled into my arm and was hammering the lure through my very thin collapsed vein with force; the second attempt was still painful except no lingering hammering. Fifteen minutes later we discover the saline isn't getting through my vein but we persevere because I didn't want another attempt at finding another. I should've just let Beth find another then as ten minutes after administering the first of five chemo syringes we have to stop, pull out the lure and call another nurse in to find another decent vein to be able to continue with the FECing regime. They have a unwritten law in oncology, two attempts only and then call another nurse. The second nurse Roz strikes it lucky on the first attempt and finally I can get FECing.
For the FEC regime, there's three syringes of Fluorouracil (red drug), then two syringes of Epirubicin (clear drug) . These drugs are manually administered very slowly by Beth via the lure. It's then finished off with a full bag of Cyclophosphamide which is done via IV. I belched through most of the chemo which I found out was normal with this regime..so lady like, NOT!
Immediately after I literally felt drunk (or drugged), the fatigue and the nausea settled in and each time I would get up I was dizzy. This continued through to day two.
Premeds are taken slightly different with this regime too. Day two after chemo you start your lovely array of steriods and continue for four days. I feel like a high as a kite African elephant calf climbing the walls (ghastly sight and of course absolutely impossible but never under estimate the effects of steriods...!). Tomorrow I will probably be a depressed calf stomping round throwing my weight around (and there is a lot of that lately). Day after that I will be moody as heck and everyone will want to avoid me and then I will start getting all paranoid and start crying that nobody loves me anymore...blah blah blah. Then the day after that I will probably be as high as a kite, slightly depressed, moody as heck, paranoid and an absolutely exhausted FECing woman going through chemo - all this on top of the fatigue, nausea and dizziness. I could be wrong....we play it by ear but I am mean who FECing knows.

11 March 2008

Boobs and comedy fundraiser

Host: Michele A'Court voted Female Comedian 2007 Gorgeous in pink the organiser, Irene Pink
Top: Looking like a character out of Matrix, the sexy and funny Rebecca McFagden
Below: And the star of the show who rocked the entire club with laughter, Justine Smith

Sunday, 9th March at 8pm down at the Classic Comedy Club, 321 Queen Street me, my sister and a very close friend of mine were treated to a night of absolute hysterics. Who would have thought that fundraising could be so extremely hysterical..!!
It was an all female night of comedy to raise funds for me organised by the very talented and funny Irene Pink and hosted by Michele A'Court.It was a full house and if I had gotten the flyer out to all my friends and family the club would have been too full to house us all. By the end of the night I had like lockjaw from laughing so much; sore guts from laughing so hard and a runny nose from crying with laughter. For $15 it was one of the best nights of entertainment that I'd had in an extremely long time and I would thoroughly recommend you go along to the Comedy Festival coming up over the next few months.

Thank you ladies for a great night, for giving up your time to do this for me - a complete stranger I might add too - and for helping me forget about reality for a while. In particular to Irene who is one of many people who has been affected by cancer in one way or another and wanted 'to do something for a breast cancer survivor instead of talking about it', lady you are wickedly too kind, thank you so much!!

Left: Diane Spencer, Ruth Spencer, Rebecca McFadgen, Justine Smith, Irene Pink, Michele A'Court (front)







Left: Me and the gorgeous Irene Pink



**$1095.00 WAS RAISED FROM TICKET SALES, WHICH HAS BEEN KINDLY DONATED TO MY HERCEPTIN TREATMENT**

07 March 2008

A person not an object

On my way to the hospital for blood tests this afternoon I was sitting at the lights waiting for a group of four males who were crossing. I knew that one was 'gawking' and didn't think anymore of it. But when he obviously alerted the other three to 'gawk' at the 'bald woman' they all walked past staring and then continued to stare to the point of absolute freaking rudeness. I got my back up and my natural reaction was to give them all my beautifully manicured one finger salute to which they had the audacity to find offensive...hahahaha..!
It is not the first time that I have experienced this reaction from strangers and nor will it be the last.
My afternoon got better as the lovely checkout operator up at Foodtown who didn't stare but asked me why I was bald (my hat off to her for her bravery) and it got even better because the lady in the stationery store recognised me from last weeks local rag write up and acknowledged me.
After accepting the diagnosis I decided after shaving my hair off that I would not cover up my condition so people could see that cancer can happen to your mother, your daughter, your sister, your aunt, your friend, your work colleague, your manager, your neighbour or the person that works in the same building as you.
I don't shy away from talking about cancer as awareness must continue. I don't have hang ups about having cancer either as those 'why me' conversations stopped shortly after acceptance. I am not afraid of cancer any longer because I choose life.
I am afraid that people will forget and only remember cancer each year in October and never acknowledge people with cancer as someone's mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, work colleague etc etc etc.

Since my article was printed last week I've received much correspondence from many genuine well wishers. Your encouragement, support and prayers will carry me on the days where I just can't be bothered, thank you so very much.

03 March 2008

ACTION speaks volumes




My small but 'huge at heart' fundraising committee.
Margs, Mary, Flo, Las and me
Absent (with good reason): Epe












Our registration tent was kept busy all day. Kendra, Stefan, Margs, Andraea and Seka.







Left: My mum, spiritually, mentally and physically tough.






Me and Debbie from Kawerau having a 'korero' while we 'savali'


Karen (with umbrella), daughter Alysha, Kaitlin (from Ohope) with her cousin and my niece Skyla. I can't quite make out the others to the right of Karen but thank you for supporting us!!

Mother and daughter (Tina and Esther) all the way from Kawerau and Ohope...!!!!
The Carlton Colts netball gals started walking at 6am hence the barefeet! From the back: Kayla R, Janelle (coach), Na'e, Limba and Sam Luka - where is Kendra??
My dear cousin Tess (left) with our old college friend Aumau and Lewis (Tess's son) heading to the registration tent.
Thank you ladies for tracking in the rain for me!! Bonnie (left) and her partner Mandy.





Esther completing her 55th 400m lap...way to go galfriend..!!






Our long time friends, Miriam and Rob Scanlan having a 'talkathon' at my 'walkathon'..



Supporters taking well deserved breaks (pssst Alan the walkathon is the other way..!)

Seriously, thank you 'committee' for your committment to me and my family. It was an awesome day!!

Pictures conjure up a thousand fuzzies...

In my heart of hearts I knew that Christian, Maria and Ingrid would 'walk the distance' YOU ROCK!! (even if you did bring the rain...LOL)
The other DoL supporters that 'complied' on the day, Angela and Kimberley

Relentless from the get go, an old friend Moyra (in pink)
Another mother and daughter team, Aumau and Chanelle
Scrumptious niece Tamah and Aunty Sarvs
My son Kroydon running it for his mum, YEEAAH
True friends last the distance. Mereana and Kelera from my old Telecom days strutting their stuff


Through thick or thin, rain or hail...my little sister and me..!!
My cousin Joy and her supportive cousins keeping great pace
Undercover and fitted with a pacemaker, my dad!!
Grayson needing to pick up his pace with his Pa..
And Grayson gives his Nana a helping hand because that is what this is all about..!!

We missed many photo opportunities with everyone that came but I got the entire event etched in my mind forever. To everyone that walked, that sponsored us, that had us in their thoughts crikey you're all bonza in my books...thank you so very much!!
Much love, Sarvs

01 March 2008

Crash course of my cancer

Very simply put and in everyday language.
Grading breast cancer: Pathologists grade the cancer according to how the cancer cells look and behave. Grades are numbered from 1 to 3.
Pathologists will look at the size and extent of the tumour which are numbered 1 to 4. Also the number of lymph nodes affected by cancer are noted and the spreading of the cancer from the breast to other parts of the body (metastases).
Another matter of concern and noting is whether the cancer is growing into the blood or lymphatic vessels which is described as lymphatic vascular invasions (LVI).
Type of breast cancer: HER2 (Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor-type 2) is a type of protein that exists on the surface of normal cells which allows human growth factor to attach to the cell.
Normally, there is around 20,000 to 50,000 of these receptors on a cell however in HER2 positive cancer cell, there will be around 2 million, which means the cells are cancerous and are more aggressive as they grow faster.
Testing HER2 positive will show you have an increased level of HER2 protein. Women who are HER2 positive may respond less well to chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapy. This is because breast cancers that overexpress HER2 are a more aggressive form of the disease.
Herceptin, a monoclonal antibody drug targets the growth factor to stop breast cancer cells from growing and can also activate the immune system to kill HER2+ cancer cells.
I have Grade 2, LVI and HER2+ type breast cancer and will need more Herceptin.

Walkathon - first event

True to form Auckland's crappy weather turned it on as the first 16 dedicated supporters arrived to 'walk the distance' for me at sparrow's fart, which in my books is 6am, and in pitch black too. Within a couple of hours more dedicated souls rocked up in wet weather gear to take the track - people just kept turning up throughout the course of the day. Family, friends, friends of friends, their family friends from all over Auckland and out of Auckland (try Kawerau, Ohope and where Mrs Ross drove from which I said will become part of Auckland shortly anywhere) turned up on the day. You all truly sent my spirits soaring on an absolute high.
The committee were kept busy with registrations, sponsorship forms and with people who turned up to support by making a donation and taking to the track. I know some were not able to make it for good reasons and I just want to say thank you for your donations that have not yet been registred on our Board!!
The barbeque did turn up however the crappy weather kept us from cranking it up so we do apologise for not feeding our dedicated supporters. We were asked by many if we would hold another walkathon so it is in the pipelines for the committee to confirm at a later date and this time you will be replinished.
Taking into consideration the rain we were touched and overwhelmed by the turnout and cannot thank everyone enough for getting out of bed on a dreary and wet Saturday morning.
To the beautiful people who referred to their donation as 'just small' I want to tell you all now, a donation of every kind is never small. In my eyes it is huge and goes a very very long way to reach my goal target.
(PS: pics to follow and a grand total of your stellar efforts for my goal target)