Almost three years to the day Queenstowner Jamie McIsaac was diagnosed with a one-in-a-million brain tumour, his wife’s helping throw a ball in the resort, to raise money for the trust that saved his life.
McIsaac, 54, who’s Queenstown council’s golf team leader, started experiencing double-vision during the first lockdown in 2020 and was ultimately summonsed to Dunedin Hospital on July 6, after an earlier brain scan showed a ‘‘cloud’’.
That day he was told he had an extremely rare chordoma — the double vision was being caused by the tumour putting pressure on his optic nerve.
His wife, Bron Cooper, says the tumour develops from a notochord cell that ‘‘goes rogue’’ when the foetus is developing inside the womb — and it had lain dormant his whole life to that point.
In a way, she says, it was ‘‘good news’’, because the tumour was slow-growing.
He returned to Queenstown to wait for surgery, performed by Dr Ahmad Taha that August, where as much was removed without compromising McIsaac’s brain function.
After again returning home to recover, the couple and their children, Gracie, then 14, and Belle, 2, relocated to Dunedin for the fourth term, where McIsaac under went 33 rounds of radiation over seven weeks.
Initially, the family was told they’d likely have to go to France or Australia for treatment, till Dunedin oncologist Dr Lyndell Kelly worked out a treatment plan that could be done on home soil.
Cooper says, looking back, it was ‘‘really shit’’, and while ‘‘brave’’ McIsaac’s recovery has been long, and he still suffers debilitating headaches, ‘‘he’s functioning and he’s alive, so there’s a lot to be grateful for’’.
Wanting to give back, Cooper’s helping to organise the inaugural ‘Matariki Ball — A Night to Remember’, at The Millennium on July 8, to raise
money for the New Zealand Brain Tumour Trust — a group of Otago-based medical experts completely committed to raising money for research.
Trust member Dr Noelyn Hung says money raised in Queenstown next month could be tagged for two projects — one is a study investigating the use of iron in the treatment plan for cancerous brain tumours.
Hung says it’s exciting because they’ve had an initial positive response with it increasing life expectancy, and, because it’s a non-invasive
treatment, it makes way for more invasive treatments to work more effectively.
The other project is a nationwide delivery of a care package offering advice and support the 400 Kiwis diagnosed with brain cancer each year.
Hung says Matariki represents a time of renewal, reflection and gathering and is a time to come together to share stories, songs and food, reflect on the past and plan for the future — which for the trust, involves alleviation of brain tumours.
Cooper says along with ‘‘beautiful food’’, the event — being MC’d by broadcast journo Daniel Faitaua — includes a charity auction and entertainment from LA Social.
She’s also mindful people are suffering from the ‘‘economic crunch’’ at present, so suggests if people can’t go, or don’t want to, they could consider paying it forward, and purchasing a ticket for someone else to attend.
‘‘That might be a nice way to make a difference to the trust, and also knowing there are other people in Queenstown — I know of three others that have had brain tumour diagnoses — they could come along and not have to pay.’’
Matariki Ball — A Night to Remember, July 8, The Millennium, from 6.30pm. Tickets, $200 for singles, $380 for doubles, $1700 for a table of 10, via eventcreate.com