Queenstown woman Ange Murray’s decided to delay her 50th birthday celebrations this month, hoping to throw “one big party” to celebrate being cancer-free next December.
Initially diagnosed with melanoma in December, 2017, she discovered it was in her lymph nodes last December and, unbelievably, had another mole removed after it started bleeding this week.
Murray, though, counts herself lucky.
She had a mole map done around 2012, but no subsequent checks.
Five years later she mentioned “this bloody mole on my knee” that started bleeding, to a friend, and heeded advice to get it looked at. Murray went to Queenstown’s Skin Institute – that day she had emergency surgery to remove it.
“It all happened around this time of year, so Christmases have been a little bit edgy, I suppose.”
Just after Christmas she got a call to say it was malignant.
“I was standing in one of the meeting rooms at work and I said ‘does this mean I’ve got cancer?’ and [the woman on the phone] said ‘yes it does, you’ve got the worst form of skin cancer, but it’s OK, these are the options’.”
In January, 2018, she had another operation – while it had spread to the lymph nodes in her groin, she was told it was “so minute I didn’t have to do anything else about it”.
But then last December, the Skin Institute found a swollen lymph node in the same area.
“Then, on January 7 … they rang me and said it had come back.”
She’s since had more surgery and started an effective, but pricey, immunotherapy treatment programme, which costs just over $100,000.
“She’s a fair few pair of shoes involved in that one.”
Murray, and her husband Andy, travel to Auckland every three weeks for treatment, at $8000 a pop.
“There’s one lady I got talking to [there] and she went on two lots of immunotherapy drugs, so she’s got double the cost of mine – she’s had to remortgage their home, but she’s just had a scan and is cancer-free.
“She went in six months before and was told she was riddled with cancer. So, that’s where the money is sort of irrelevant.”
Remarkably, the only thing Murray thinks is unfair about the last couple of years is KiwiSaver’s initial refusal to release some of her husband’s savings to help cover the cost of treatment, because he hadn’t exhausted all of his financial options.
He reapplied and KiwiSaver eventually agreed to release $3600.
“Then I had a girlfriend who kindly offered to set up a Givealittle … that’s been absolutely amazing.”
Murray says she’s eternally grateful to the support from friends, the community and, in particular, her colleagues at New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty – a whip-around there collected about $15,000 for her.
Due to finish treatment in February, her advice: “Definitely get mole mapped … they’ll tell you whether or not you need to worry.”
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