Natalia reached a milestone birthday last September when she turned 40 and she said with a cheeky green "I'm still here!" The bush dance she had dreamed of to celebrate was put on hold because of COVID. Unfortunately, September also marked a not so great milestone, five years since she was first diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Natalia is a strong and determined young woman, I don't know many people who have the drive and determination Natalia displays in the face of such terrible odds and a persistent disease that challenges her at every turn. Below is her story and snippets along the way when we shared news and progress.
Natalia is about to commence a Phase 1 trial immunotherapy treatment at the ICON Cancer Centre in Adelaide. The treatment is the only glimmer of hope for Natalia, as there are no other suitable treatments available for her at present, given the advanced stage of her disease and the fact she has already received every possible treatment .
At this point, we are praying and hoping that she will respond well to treatment and that the new drug works on the cancer.
We are once more asking for your support to help cover costs of travel and accommodation and incidental to the treatment. Please feel free to message Natalia with your emotional support. If you can share the GoFundMe link with your family, friends and networks. Every little bit helps. We are forever grateful to each and every one of you for your ongoing help in this journey.
Please also feel free to reach out if you have questions or would like more information, or simply for a chat.
Natalia Rodriguez is a 37 year old mother of two who lives in Tasmania, Australia. For the past two years she has been battling recurrent metastatic cancer, which originated in her cervix. After a major surgery in August 2017, Natalia’s doctors explained there was no longer any benefit in her continuing conventional treatments such as chemotherapy. Nat is now relying on expensive supportive treatments including hyperthermia and vitamin C infusions, which are not covered by Medicare, to help her immune system fight the cancer. She needs your help to continue these treatments and to ease the financial burden on her young family. This is Natalia’s story.
NATALIA Rodriguez feels most at home in the great outdoors. A passionate environmentalist, she counts bushwalks, bike rides and camping trips among her favourite things. Cups of tea in the sun and picnics with her children Elena, 11, and Felix, 9, in their Launceston backyard are also guaranteed to make her smile.
Since 2015, Nat and her young family have been adjusting to a “new normal”. Instead of planning adventures, the single mum is focused on trying to get well again, while battling a recurrent cancer that originated in her cervix and quickly spread.
In 2009, a pap smear revealed Natalia had Human Papillomavirus, which is a major risk factor for cervical cancer.
Several years after the HPV was detected, Natalia’s mother Stella Rodriguez said her daughter started feeling extremely tired and rundown.
“She was told many times it was normal to feel that tired looking after two young children on her own,” Stella said.
“She continued to seek answers, until finally she was sent for an ultrasound that showed an abnormality in the uterus.”
A hysteroscopy confirmed Natalia had cervical adenocarcinoma that had spread to other tissues and could therefore not be operated on. Chemo-radiation and brachytherapy were her best chances of beating the cancer.
That was just the beginning of what Stella describes as a “dizzying period” of treatments, complications and confusing test results.
One of the biggest blows came after a PET scan in July 2016.
“The results were devastating. There was suspicion of a recurrence in the cervix with bilateral pelvic nodal disease and uterine disease,” Stella said.
“All biopsies returned a positive result for endocervical carcinoma. They confirmed everyone’s worst fears - Natalia had recurrent metastatic disease, and it had developed very quickly given she’d only finished treatment in January 2016.”
Nat’s cancer was now considered incurable, and a course of palliative chemotherapy was prescribed.
She was not eligible for any clinical trials, but Stella had been researching some supportive treatments. Details of these treatments and their costs are listed below.
“Nat got started on several supplements, hyperthermia and vitamin C infusions, all designed to support the immune system to fight the cancer and the body in coping with the chemo treatment, as well as optimising the effects of chemo on the cancer,” Stella said.
Medicare does not cover the cost of these extra treatments, and Stella estimates her daughter has spent between $12,000 and $15,000 from her own pocket so far.
Natalia is now recovering from a radical hysterectomy performed in August 2017, which revealed the cancer was still in her cervix, and also in her uterus and right ovary.
“Neither her doctor nor the medical oncologist believe there’s any benefit in further chemo treatment at this stage,” Stella said.
“Now that all the conventional treatment has been exhausted, Nat needs to keep working hard to support her body and immune system to fight the cancer more than ever.”
The money raised from this page will help Natalia to afford ongoing hyperthermia and vitamin C treatments and, hopefully, a two-week stay at the Living Valley Health Retreat in Queensland.
“The financial support would make the decision to do the extra treatments easier, and therefore give me the best chance at living and take away some of the worry of providing for my children’s future,” Natalia said.
Stella said her daughter’s future was very uncertain.
“But she’s managed to defeat the doctor’s predictions so far and I pray and hope she will continue to do so for a long time to come,” she said.
“Elena and Felix are a great source of motivation for her and they fuel her will to live. She’s a determined young woman and a great inspiration.”
One of the most difficult things for Natalia has been losing her independence.
“The illness has changed everything about me and robbed me of the energy and drive I always had,” Natalia said.
“But I feel so grateful to everyone who is supporting me – my family, friends, even strangers.”
Cervical cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix. Cancer most commonly begins in the area of the cervix called the transformation zone, but it may spread to tissues around the cervix, such as the vagina, or to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or liver.
About 800 women in Australia are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. Cervical cancer accounts for about 1.5% of all cancers diagnosed in women.
Adenocarcinoma is a less common type, starting in the glandular cells of the cervix. Adenocarcinoma is more difficult to diagnose because it occurs higher up in the cervix and is harder to reach with the instruments a doctor uses during a screening test.
Metastatic cancer is cancer that has spread from its starting point (in Nat’s case, the cervix).
*(Information from the Cancer Council Australia website)
Infrared hyperthermia is a technique of whole-body hyperthermia that uses harmless short-wave infrared radiation for a contact free thermal energy transfer.
The increased body temperature reached during hyperthermia primarily causes an improved circulation and muscular relaxation. The actual therapeutic aim, however, is to induce a self-healing process and to train the body’s own defence system.
The aim is to correct dysfunction of the immune system, stimulate immune function and support reparative and regenerative processes.
Gore Street Medical in Hobart provides hyperthermia treatment.
Cost: 10 Sessions @ $5,500 ($550 each). Single treatments cost $600 and price decreases incrementally when multiple treatments are purchased at once in advance.
12 months of treatment would cost $6,600.
VITAMIN C INFUSION
Vitamin C is a powerful oxidant (free radical scavenger). Intravenous (IV) vitamin C is given by a drip into a vein in the arm. It is possible to give much higher doses of Vitamin C intravenously than it is by mouth, achieving very high levels in the bloodstream.
Intravenous vitamin C is an extremely safe form of treatment and very rarely has any side effects. When given intravenously, IV vitamin C is often combined with other important nutrients such as magnesium, B vitamins, glutathione and lipoic acid.
Clinical experience has shown that IV vitamin C can be useful in cancer treatment.
IV vitamin C is not a cure for cancer, but there is increasing evidence that Intravenous vitamin C can play a useful role in the treatment of cancer. In the laboratory, high doses of vitamin C have been shown to kill cancer cells, but not normal healthy cells.
IV vitamin C can in some cases enhance the effectiveness of conventional cancer treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
IV vitamin C can reduce the severity of some cancer symptoms and the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Cancer patients having IV vitamin C often report an increased quality of life.
IV vitamin C can help relieve pain in late-stage cancer patients.
IV vitamin C can be used, along with a focus on diet and meditation, in those people who have chosen to not have conventional cancer treatment.
Gore Street Medical in Hobart provides intravenous vitamin C infusions, which can be combined with hyperthermia treatment for increased efficacy.
Cost: 75g each dose @ $230 x 2 per month ($460 monthly).
12 months of treatment would cost $5,520.
TRANSPORT FROM LAUNCESTON TO HOBART FOR TREATMENTS:
Cost: Fuel costs for 2 trips per month @ $45 each
12 months would cost $1,080.
LIVING VALLEY HEALTH RETREAT
Living Valley is a world-renowned health retreat in the Noosa Biosphere Reserve. Their team includes therapists, naturopaths, health educators, trainers, counsellors, cooks and carers, all dedicated to providing the best opportunity for guests to heal. Living Valley is more than just a relaxation retreat; it is an experienced team of professional carers.
14 Day Pure Detox Cleanse includes:
- 14 Nights Accommodation
- 8 Therapeutic Detox Treatments: 2 Remedial Massages, 2 Lymphatic Drainage Massages, 2 Colonic Hydrotherapy Treatments, 1 Full Body Clay Wrap & 1 Deluxe Facial Regenerating Treatment
- A variety of other treatments such as Swedish Massage, Thai Massage, Hot Stone Massage and many more are available.
- Three Personal Naturopathic Consultations & Professional Care
- A personal transforming lifestyle & meal plan (to take home)
- Vitality, longevity and healthy ageing assessment
- Quality Meals
- Detox broths at night
- Structured Cleansing using Detox Shakes, Juices and Broths
- Evening Educational Health & Lifestyle Lectures
- Healthy Cooking Demonstration
- Art Class
- Essential Oils Workshops
- Daily Steam Baths
- Morning Stretch Classes
- Group Fitness Classes
- Sunrise Mountain Climb (optional)
- Sunrise Noosa Beach & National Park venture
- Access to gym, swimming pool & kilometres of superb natural bush-walks
Starting from $6,500.
- Helen Mangione
- Kirsty Dunphey
- Andrew Longmire
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