Rigs' Brain Cancer Battle

My best friend affectionally called Rigs, was first diagnosed with brain cancer 16 years ago at the age of 33.  At the time she had a 5 month old baby and was going through a separation from her husband.  The next 4 years saw major brain surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and anywhere between 3-10 seizures per day.  She was sleeping 20 hour days and in effect lost the first 5 years of her daughters life.

Over the years and countless appointments together with 3 monthly MRI’s, Rigs has worked with an incredible group of doctor’s in Melbourne who were able to stabilise her tumour, at one point one of them called it a miracle. While she’d beaten the odds, her journey has been nothing short of a war on this hideous disease.  She never gave up hope and the spirit to fight primarily for her beautiful daughter.

Five years ago, Rigs was told she was diagnosed with a rare form of Ovarian Cancer (primary).  She underwent surgery and was told she was one of the ‘lucky’ ones…she had a form of ovarian cancer so rare that it accounts for under 1% of all types of Ovarian Cancer.  She took this as well as anyone could take it and did what she needed to do to keep fighting.  She never lost her spirit.

Rigs continued to give back by sitting as a committee member on the Brain Tumour Alliance of Australia and was able to provide the rare perspective of someone who knew about policy but was also fighting this disease.  While at some meetings she would need to excuse herself to have a nap, she ploughed through and continued to be involved knowing that they were all fighting for the same cause…to find a cure for brain cancer.

Fast forward 4 years to September 2017 and during one of Rigs’ routine 3 monthly MRI scans, it showed her brain cancer had grown.  In the past 11 months she’s undergone 3 different types of chemo and the outlook has been fairly positive regardless of the fact that one chemo after the other was showing not to be containing the growth the way we wanted.  Two weeks ago she had her routine MRI following her last chemo and it showed a significant growth in the 8 weeks.  In some parts it had almost doubled in size.  Her oncologist told her that the last chemo was obviously not working and that the tumour had changed in composition.  It’s now a confirmed Grade IV brain cancer – the worst you can have.  While discussing options with her oncologist he said he wants to place her on a new drug called Avastin telling her that it’s one of our last options.  She of course said yes…but there was a catch.  The cost for up to 6 rounds (fortnightly intravenous infusion) would be between $23k-$25k as it’s not on the PBS!  How is a single mother, on the disability pension supposed to pay for this?  Her family rallied around her and got the money together to immediately start the infusions knowing how critical it is for her survival. 

As her closest and oldest friend, I’ve sat here watching both Rigs and her family scramble to pull together this money.  How can you put a price on someone’s life and expect that only those with money have a chance of life?  How do you tell her now 16 year old daughter that we’re sorry you’re mum has passed away because we didn’t have the money to pay for a treatment which may prolong her life long enough for a cure?  You can’t.  So I’ve decided to write this message to our broader network of family and friends to see if we can raise this money and moreso to not only provide this drug, but fund a biopsy, take her to the US for varying opinions and to undertake genetic testing on the brain tissue to see if anything will work.  Rigs has fought for SIXTEEN years.  She’s never asked for anything.  She’s always given back.  It’s now time for us to fight for her.  She’s been through a living hell and she deserves it.  Please donate and help Rigs on the fight of her life.

A bit about me:  My name is Sonia Saliba and I'm from Melbourne, Australia.  I've been best friends with Rigs since high school.  Not only did we complete high school together, but we did the same course at uni and our first professional job was at the same business - so we shared an office for many years!  All money will go directly to Rigs' bank account and will be declared with authorities through her accountant.  The money will be going towards the purchase of 6 rounds of a brain tumour drug called Avastin, access to any other drugs/treatments available to her, towards the bettermeant of her care including works to build ramps and make better access to the bathroom in order to manage her care needs and any other fundamental needs in order to beat this awful disease.  I know I speak on behalf of Rigs and her family thanking you all for the support.  No matter how big or small it makes a significant difference.

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Organizer

Sonia Guzzo Saliba 
Organizer
Mont Albert VIC
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