It was a special day, when the Auckland Health Foundation first met Crisley Gomes.
Like a breath of fresh air, the bright and bubbly Crisley was surrounded by friends and carried a huge bunch of balloons.
They looked ready for a girls’ day out, but as they walked through the doors of Auckland DHB’s Cancer and Blood Service, the reality was very different.
“I felt a lump in the shower last October; it felt like an olive. I don’t have a family history of breast cancer and thought I’m too young, so I brushed it aside, but the next month I decided to see my GP. I had an ultrasound, then a biopsy, and was diagnosed with breast cancer in March – the same month as my 29th birthday.”
Crisley said her diagnosis came as a massive shock. “It was so unexpected. Given my age, I had the option to freeze my eggs, so I spent two months going through a fertility process and started chemotherapy in May.”
By the time the foundation first met Crisley in September, she had endured 16 rounds of chemotherapy, and it was her last day of treatment: “I have butterflies; today feels like a new beginning,” she said. “The next few days will be hard with chemo side-effects, but then I’m done with it.”
Speaking that day, nutritionist Crisley said it had been a roller coaster of emotions. “I started off feeling really positive, but sometimes it’s been hard to stay up-beat, especially when I had to stop working. Luckily, I have the best friends and I have amazing doctors, which has made a big difference.”
Since her diagnosis, Crisley has been cared for by Auckland DHB’s Cancer and Blood Service (Regional Cancer Centre), which provides cancer care, treatment and support for 1.5 million people in greater Auckland. Crisley counts herself lucky to be surrounded by the best specialists, nurses and surgeons.
Auckland DHB Oncologist Sheridan Wilson (below) came to see Crisley before her last chemotherapy. “Sheridan has been with me the whole way. She is so good at passing on all the information I need,” said Crisley that day. “I’m so excited she’s given me the all-clear to fly home to Brazil to be bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding next week. Auckland has been home for seven years now, so I’ll be back for surgery to remove the lump.”
Auckland DHB’s Regional Cancer Centre treats all patients in the Northern Region (north of Mercer), and is the only public provider of radiation therapy in the region.
With so many people relying on Auckland DHB’s Cancer and Blood Service for life-saving care, the Auckland Health Foundation is a positive fundraising force, launched with the DHB’s backing to help patients achieve greater positive health outcomes.
The Auckland Health Foundation goes beyond what is funded in the healthcare system to focus on promising ideas and advancements that have the potential to benefit Auckland DHB’s patients and community, but could otherwise not be developed without external investment.
Auckland Health Foundation CEO Gwen Green says, “Donations to the Auckland Health Foundation will help people like Crisley receive world-class healthcare. We’re a charity with the sole purpose of funding innovative equipment, research and facilities for adult health services within Auckland DHB, and we fund training and education for staff.
“Our supporters can donate to any Auckland DHB department they choose, including the Cancer and Blood Service, where they can make a huge positive difference. We help our supporters ensure their donation has the biggest possible impact – making improvements that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. We’re a small team that ultimately supports the DHB to advance healthcare and save lives.”
Crisley’s journey with Auckland DHB’s Cancer and Blood Service continued on her return from Brazil, when she underwent surgery in October. “It was hard leaving my family after the wedding, but I was overwhelmed by love and support from everyone here, and the surgery went well. It was only a lumpectomy, which was good news, and even better news that the removed tissue had no cancer cells. The chemo had worked.”
Since then, Crisley has undergone four weeks of radiotherapy, finishing in February. “It was precautionary, in case any cancer cells were left, and to reduce the risk of it returning. I feel so relieved that it’s finally done.”
Crisley is now working on emotional healing, which is one of the biggest challenges she has faced. “I always kept finding reasons to feel grateful and blessed, and was determined to keep smiling. ‘Crazy Crisley’ was never a fan of giving up and, step-by-step, we are putting things back together. I’m back working full-time at My Food Bag and applying for citizenship, which will give me more freedom to enjoy whatever lies ahead.
“I’m finding my ‘new normal’ and I’m happy that sharing my journey [on social media] has touched people all over the world, helping them fight their own cancer battles. The more my story can help others, the better. I’ve been helped so much by Auckland DHB’s awesome cancer team, and would love to inspire donations that make the service even better.” Donate here today.
Help people like Crisley receive world-class healthcare in Auckland, now and in the future, by donating to Auckland DHB’s Cancer and Blood Service here.