My name is Melissa Murphy and I am a mum with four wonderful children and an incredible husband.
After hearing from a friend about her experience with breast cancer, I became concerned about a lump. In 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 a few days before Christmas 2007, being told ‘the test results are back and the lump is cancerous’ was the last thing I expected and a shock. I was in the low risk group and had everything going for me: no family history, non drinker or smoker. I am fit and healthy and doctor’s visits were a very rare occurrence.
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 that 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. Our family and friends offered fantastic strength and support.
In 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 and the cancer was HER2 +. This came out of the blue; I had no warning and could do nothing to stop it! 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. This started a lot of research and lots of trying to decide what to do. 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 was because of money. God promises to provide everything we need in abundance.
The consensus from the people we talked to, either those going through treatment at the time or in the past, and several doctors and oncologists all except one recommended taking Herceptin for the full year. This was the decision I made as I am still young and had four young children to think of. I needed to be responsible for my family and do what I could in the natural and leave the supernatural to God, to see my children grow up and be there for them.
Finally, in April 2008, I started my 1st cycle of taxotere chemotherapy with Herceptin. It was 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 often wondered when it would all end, the nausea, mouth ulcers, swollen glands, 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 when I finally saw the light at the end of this dark tunnel, when the side effects begin to minimize from the 3rd cycle onwards. I was cruising through until 5th cycle then I caught a bug on my 6th cycle and was back in hospital again for 7 days. So glad that the chemotherapy journey is now finished. I had my 1st dose of private Herceptin in September 2008. The side effects were minimal; I was just aching all over my body and tired.
I had the full 12 months of Herceptin treatment, of which 10 out of the 14 was funded through the public hospital. I completed the Herceptin treatments in June 2009. The fundraising was quite difficult as I am not used to asking people for help. It was a constant struggle, like a huge debt hanging over my head. We are very grateful to many friends, our family and those organizations and groups like the Herceptin Heroines, Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition and Skip for Life dedicated to helping women in battles for fairer funding allocation in health.
It was an answer to prayer and a huge relief not having to fund raise any more when the new government came into power and kept their promise to fund Herceptin (December 2008). Many women who would not have received treatment under the last government’s funding policy can now look forward to having it funded if they require it and can concentrate on getting better rather than worrying or stressing over where they are going to come up with a huge amount of money.
My relationship with God has been most significant in enabling me to go through these circumstances. God is my constant companion; it has been heartbreaking during the months of this journey to hear many stories of people with no hope going through this same journey living in fear and despair. There is hope! Support of family and friends is key and a positive attitude is very important!
Some days I was very weary and couldn’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 learned to value life and relationships more and to let go of things that do not matter. It has not been easy having to deal with the sickness, and to have to fundraise for a treatment that should have been government funded.
It has been a very long haul and I am so glad that yet another chapter in this journey is closing. With just some minor surgeries, and Tamoxifen for the next four years or so, life is great. I look forward to the future with confidence that I have done all I can in the ‘natural’, to be here for my family, leaving the ‘supernatural’ to God. We are very enthusiastic and looking forward to moving on to a very happy and healthy future.