Shaz Mebberson is a Territorian on a mission. She’s fighting cancer. And her mission is to beat it.
Shaz arrived in the Top End from New Zealand, via Sydney 20 years ago. Within twelve months, she had met her soul mate, Mebbo, and in 1990 they married.
For many years life was good for Shaz and Mebbo. But in May 2002, Shaz started to feel unwell. She lost her appetite and became breathless. After three long months of exhaustive tests, Shaz was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a major part of the immune system.
Shaz’s diagnosis was the beginning of almost six years of ups and downs that continues today.
Shaz began chemotherapy in October 2002 and after twelve months of treatment she achieved remission. Two years of relative good health followed but in early 2005, after again feeling unwell, Shaz was told the cancer had returned. Surgery to remove her spleen followed.
After recovering from the surgery Shaz felt she was beginning to take control of her life once more. But in mid 2006, her lymphoma returned. Chemotherapy followed but by the end of 2006 Shaz’s health was deteriorating.
At this point, doctors felt that Shaz’s best chance of survival was to receive one last high dose of chemotherapy. But in order for Shaz to tolerate the treatment, she needed to travel to Adelaide to receive something known as an autologous stem cell transplant. This is where Shaz’s own healthy stem cells are collected in advance of her treatment and then returned to her after she’s received the chemotherapy.
The need to travel to Adelaide created tremendous upheaval in the lives of Shaz and her family. The impact was immense.
Fortunately, the Leukaemia Foundation was there to help.
“The Leukaemia Foundation was our saviour” say Shaz. “They were on board helping my sister in Darwin and they gave Mebbo and me a ‘home away from home’ in Adelaide. And it truly was a home.”
“They took all of our worries away.”
The stem cell transplant was performed in April 2007 and has been a success.
As tough as Shaz’s struggle has been, it’s a struggle not uncommon for person living with a blood cancer.
In addition to the emotional turmoil of diagnosis and treatment, the patient must deal with the impact blood cancer has on their finances, employment, social network, relationships and education.
A blood cancer diagnosis means leaving work or family commitments with often little or no notice. Combined with costly medical bills and loss of income, many find themselves in difficult financial circumstances.
As the Northern Territory does not have a comprehensive oncology service, patients like Shaz who need a stem cell transplant, must uproot their lives and relocate. This can be particularly traumatic as the relocation often results in patients and families adjusting to their new circumstances without the benefit of established local support networks.
This is the real story behind the news of a diagnosis. It’s a story that, on average, two Northern Territory residents will face each and every week.
It’s during this time the Leukaemia Foundation steps in to support the patient and their family so that they can concentrate on what is most important – getting well.
The pinnacle in Shaz’s six-year journey came in August last year when she was able to return home to her native New Zealand to attend the 80th birthday of her Dad.
More than twelve months on from her transplant, Shaz is still under the watchful eye of her doctor but she and Mebbo are back in Darwin, getting on with their lives together.
The Leukaemia Foundation is the only national not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the care and cure of patients and families living with leukaemias, lymphomas, myeloma and related blood disorders.
The Leukaemia Foundation provides accommodation, transport, emotional support, counselling, information and education to patients and their families during this difficult time.
All of these services are provided at no cost to the patient.
In addition to providing practical support to patients, the Leukaemia Foundation also funds cutting edge research into better treatments and cures through its National Research Program. The Foundation also funds research grants, scholarships and fellowships for talented young researchers to promote innovative research into the causes, diagnosis and treatment of these diseases.
If you feel inspired by the support the Leukaemia Foundation provides to people like Shaz, then I ask that you consider supporting our work.
By making a tax deductible donation to the Leukaemia Foundation, you can play a vital role in enabling us to continue to provide practical support to those people living with a blood cancer.