A New Zealand woman is racing against the clock to make it to Australia before her sister dies from brain cancer - and with doctors saying there’s only a month left she is desperately trying to raise the money to be there.
Maryanne Peka’s sister Shermayne Young is “the best of us all”.
“She is the kind of person that’s very full of life, very positive. She wouldn’t say a mean thing about anybody and she’d give you the shirt off her back,” Peka told the Herald.
But Young “drew the short straw” and is now facing a terminal cancer diagnosis in Australia.
“What happened to her is just beyond all of us.”
Young was diagnosed with grade 4 glioblastoma - malignant tumours in her brain that since her diagnosis in July last year have narrowed her life down to a hospital bed.
She is not eligible for disability care in Australia, despite having lived there for 20 years, because she never became a citizen. This means that while her hospital care is covered, as soon as she goes home the family will find themselves on their own financially - which only adds to the stress for those still in New Zealand.
She said her family is in disbelief that this would happen to Young, who always worked hard to be her best self.
“My brothers and I look, we all, we all say to each other ‘What the hell she’s the cleanest one out of us all’. This chick is always taking care of herself, wanting to look her absolute best and she ended up drawing the short the short straw.”
“She’s dying. She can hardly keep her eyes open because she’s nauseous all the time… we can barely recognise her.”
Doctors told Peka and her family there was nothing else that could be done to treat Young, and it was now time to go home and make the best of the time she has left.
“She’s convinced herself that if she is no longer on treatment she will die,” Peka said.
“I just try to say to her just because you’re not going to have the treatment doesn’t mean that we stop fighting.”
One of the things that Young wanted to do before she died was to renew her wedding vows with her husband Chris, beneath the cherry blossoms in Japan, but as her health has deteriorated, Peka says the family are now looking at other options.
“She wanted to do that in Japan with all of us there but we’re trying to think of ways of creating the scene at home, at her house.”
With eight close family members still in New Zealand, Peka is fighting hard to raise enough money to get everyone over to Australia for Young’s final journey.
“Our plan is to try and get there as soon as possible because she wants to pass on over there, it’s where her daughters and her grandchildren are.”
A GoFundMe set up by Peka to raise money for Young’s care has already raised A$2360 ($2540).
She told the Herald the community support has been incredible.
“We’ve just had some amazing people that have been there to help us do things and, come and support us.”