Cancer suf­ferer needs help

$10,000 a month needed to stay alive

Kapiti News - - Front Page - Ros­alie Willis

Just get­ting out of bed and dressed is a win for An­drew Her­cus.

Ev­ery day is a bat­tle for the 41-year-old from Ka¯ piti who is try­ing to keep life nor­mal for two young sons while bat­tling ter­mi­nal melanoma.

And work­ing out how to pay for two un­funded drugs that fight the cancer is dis­tract­ing from much-needed fam­ily time.

Shar­ing their story with

Ka¯ piti News, An­drew and his part­ner Kiri Morehu de­scribe how quickly their lives were turned up­side down.

“The year started on the right foot as we had just fin­ished our six week hol­i­day at the top of the North Is­land,” An­drew said.

Tak­ing their chil­dren, Tyler, 11, and Cobi, 9, to Rain­bow’s End, the zoo and vis­it­ing Pai­hia and Rus­sell, “It was ab­so­lutely per­fect,” Kiri adds.

“Af­ter two years of sav­ing we had such a good hol­i­day away.

“But a week later our whole life turned up­side down.”

Go­ing to a con­sul­ta­tion to check out a trou­ble­some mole by his left ear, An­drew ended up hav­ing the mole re­moved then and there.

A fur­ther biopsy and CT scans showed An­drew was car­ry­ing the mu­ta­tion B-RAF gene.

“Suddenly, we were no longer deal­ing with a lit­tle mis­be­hav­ing mole, but with the di­ag­no­sis of stage four metastatic melanoma a ter­mi­nal cancer, with six to 12 months life expectancy.”

Told it was melanoma, An­drew had surgery to re­move the pri­mary seven nodes and his left sali­vary gland, leav­ing a 30cm scar from the top of his left ear down to his up­per ch­est.

Caus­ing nerve dam­age mak­ing swal­low­ing, even of his own saliva, like shards of glass mov­ing down his throat, An­drew also tem­po­rar­ily lost the use of his left arm.

How­ever this was only the start of the jour­ney.

The surgery did not get all the cancer with it quickly mov­ing through­out his body.

An­drew then tried im­munother­apy and ra­di­a­tion ther­apy, both of which were un­suc­cess­ful.

“It is dis­heart­en­ing to say that all the funded ways to fight this cancer have failed,” An­drew ex­plains.

“Our only op­tion is an un­funded com­bi­na­tion drug Cotel­lic and Zelb­o­raf cost­ing over $10,000 per month.

“There is noth­ing that will kill my cancer, we are hop­ing now the drugs I’m on will give me a bet­ter qual­ity of life.

“As long as it’s work­ing I could get up to four to five years.”

If the drug con­tin­ues to work for An­drew he will be on the drug for the rest of his life.

How­ever as it is un­funded the fam­ily now has to raise $10,000 per month on top of their day to day ex­penses, keep­ing a roof over their head.

“It’s taken us quite a few months to get our heads around it, so we kept it to our­selves for a

‘Suddenly, we were no longer deal­ing with a lit­tle mis­be­hav­ing mole, but with the di­ag­no­sis of stage four metastatic melanoma a ter­mi­nal cancer, with six to 12 months life expectancy. ’

Kiri Morehu

while,” An­drew said.

How­ever, down to one in­come with An­drew un­able to work since Jan­uary, “There was no other way for us but to go pub­lic and ask for fi­nan­cial help,” Kiri said.

“Af­ter we had the first treat­ment we had a talk and re­alised we are re­ally not go­ing to be able to do this on our own so we set up a Givealit­tle page.

“We are truly grate­ful that we got that hol­i­day be­fore the sick­ness, that the kids have good mem­o­ries of be­fore the cancer.

“Life is now about cre­at­ing mem­o­ries with the kids.

“That’s all we want to do with the rest of the time we’ve got.

“We feel like we had a great hol­i­day so now any fund­ing we get will be fund­ing the drugs and keep­ing the roof over our house with­out fi­nan­cial stress.”

Liv­ing in Waikanae Beach with a view of the ocean from their liv­ing room, An­drew has to choose how he spends his en­ergy.

Of­ten that means try­ing to get up in time to see the kids off for school and rest­ing dur­ing the day so he has en­ergy to play with them when they get home.

“Even though I’m tak­ing the same 18 pills ev­ery morn­ing, ev­ery day re­ally is very dif­fer­ent.

“My big thing is try­ing not to stay in bed, fatigue is the big­gest bat­tle. If I can get out of bed I know it’s go­ing to be a good day.”

A fort­night af­ter start­ing the com­bi­na­tion drugs, un­forseen

cir­cum­stances sent An­drew back to hos­pi­tal. Find­ing their neigh­bour on the foot­path hav­ing a car­diac ar­rest while on the way to the beach last month, An­drew and Kiri gave com­pres­sions un­til the am­bu­lance ar­rived.

“Both the adrenalin and en­ergy used, and the come down from this sent An­drew’s body into a chem­i­cal im­bal­ance and knocked him out for three days flat in hos­pi­tal,” Kiri said.

“It was scary, a life or death sit­u­a­tion,” An­drew said. “Our first re­sponse was to do com­pres­sions, but it knocked me out com­pletely, three days I don’t even re­mem­ber.”

Op­er­at­ing on a need to know ba­sis, the hardest part for the cou­ple has been work­ing out what to tell Tyler and Cobi through­out the jour­ney.

“It’s hard be­ing pos­i­tive 24/7 but we are just try­ing to be strong,” An­drew said.

“We want to pre­pare them for when they’re older. They are 9 and 11 now, we want them ready when they are teens to un­der­stand what it’s like to be men in the real world and we want An­drew to teach them those things,” Kiri said.

“It’s the man skills that I can’t teach them. We don’t want to push it too early, but we want him to be able to do the things with his kids that they do with teenagers, just that lit­tle bit ear­lier.”

Af­ter 15 years to­gether and en­gaged for seven years, An­drew and Kiri are hop­ing get­ting mar­ried will be a bright spot, some­thing to re­mem­ber among all the hos­pi­tal vis­its. With a dress and pho­tog­ra­phers booked, Kiri’s ex­cite­ment is tan­gi­ble as she talks about the last­ing mem­o­ries it will cre­ate.

Valu­ing ev­ery day they have, the fam­ily needs the help of the com­mu­nity to raise $10,000 a month to fund An­drew’s treat­ment and buy them more time as a fam­ily.

To do­nate visit www.givealit­tle.co.nz/cause/help-buy-us-more-qual­i­ty­time-with-our-dad

An­drew Her­cus and Kiri Morehu and their sons Tyler, 11, and Cobi, 9.

An­drew Her­cus and wife-to-be Kiri Morehu.

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