My wife, Dr Sharlyn Kang, lost her five-year battle with lung cancer just days after reaching her 40th birthday in April this year. She was a staff specialist in radiation oncology at the Illawarra Cancer Care Centre and served the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District out of Wollongong Hospital and the Shoalhaven District Memorial Hospital.
Shar and I met while I was a Platoon Commander in the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment. I knew on the third date that I was going to marry her and she has been my guiding star ever since.
In 2016 she was diagnosed with a stage 4, Exon 20 NSCLC, which has a median 5 year survival of about 4%. She'd been having headaches, a persistent cough and had been uncharacteristically volatile. Being the oncologist she was she checked herself in for an MRI and saw for herself the bad news on the scans. This was the start of the most courageous delay action I have ever witnessed. My wife threw everything she had at this cancer to buy herself extra days with our daughters. 4 major surgeries, multiple chemotherapy combinations, multiple radiation treatments, trial drugs, immunotherapies, targeted therapies. It was a hard fought battle for all of us, but any time I felt down Shar picked me up and kept us moving forward.
Even while fighting cancer, she worked in colorectal cancer research and the outcome data she worked on has been the source for half a dozen papers reporting on treatment outcomes for the local area health district.
Shar was also a leader in the Exon 20 Group at the International Cancer Advocacy Network who have named their program after her in honour of her contributions to the organisation and their community.
In addition to being a great clinician Shar was a wonderful wife who found the time in her busy life to give me two daughters who are helping me get through the unspeakable tragedy of her passing. I don't know where I would be without my girls Ava and Anara, but it would be in a darker place than I am now.
Shar had a number of causes that were important to her. They are related to things that she was proud of as an oncologist, or that really annoyed her as a patient during our fight with her cancer. I've set up a Gofundme page to raise some money in pursuit of the following goals:
- Continuation and support of her cancer outcomes research within the area health district.
- Support of trial drug access and better coordination for cancer patients.
- Development and implementation of protocols to support the collection of clean and accurate research data.
- Education and training for Radiation Therapy teams.
- Cancer treatment technologies and research.
- Pay for a memorial at the Illawarra Cancer Care Centre
I'd also like to raise awareness for the International Cancer Advocacy Network, who were incredibly helpful and supportive during Shar's fight.
I won't need the funds immediately and will leave them in place until I am ready I to disburse them in accordance with the above priorities. I will be in charge of final expenses.