Sad end to ‘miracle year’
Mon Macdonald has squeezed a lot into her 39 years. She’s also fought cancer three times and beaten it twice.
Although she is now dying, she said she was ‘‘extremely privileged’’ to have had extra time after being given just a few weeks to live more than a year ago.
She has also had a fulfilling career, fallen in love and married, run marathons and travelled the world.
‘‘Her nature is to live life to the fullest,’’ her husband of 16 years, Gabe Macdonald, said. But her journey was coming to an end.
Macdonald had previously had breast and ovarian cancer and been given the all-clear, but was then diagnosed with leukaemia.
A drug called azacitidine (known by the brand name Vidaza) gave the Macdonalds hope that they might have more time together.
Clinical trials had found azacitidine nearly doubled the survival rate of people with debilitating blood disorders.
In December 2017, Macdonald’s haematologist rang with good news – Pharmac would fund six months of azacitidine for her at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars.
Macdonald started treatment immediately and for nearly a year was well enough to visit Queenstown, the Milford Sounds and Tongariro – places that had been on her bucket list – with Gabe and her dad, who was visiting from the UK.
However, while undergoing treatment for the leukaemia, Macdonald’s ovarian cancer returned.
Chemotherapy was the only treatment option for her ovarian cancer, but it damaged her bone marrow, which was affected by the leukaemia.
Doctors did what they could – giving her chemotherapy one week and then azacitidine the next – but by November last year Macdonald’s symptoms were worsening.
‘‘Now she’s in the situation where she’s just not eating very much. It’s a palliative care situation,’’ Gabe Macdonald said.
‘‘They’re just making her comfortable. It’s the end of her journey.’’
Macdonald, who is spending her last few weeks in Mercy Hospice, said she felt ‘‘extremely privileged’’ to have had a miracle year.
‘‘When I was given six to eight weeks, and I walked out of that doctor’s room, I had to prepare for that. In a way that prepared me for this end of my journey. ‘‘There’s never a good or better time to die; you have to accept it.’’
Mon and Gabe Macdonald have made the most of the time a leukaemia drug gave them, but her journey is nearly over.
Gabe Macdonald said the extra time had given the couple a chance to ‘‘make peace with the situation’’.