Sad end to ‘mir­a­cle year’

Sunday Star-Times - - News - Brit­tany Keogh

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’’.

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