Eva and Simon Menelaws are from Germany and Scotland, respectively, but they now call the Sunshine Coast, QLD, home. Eva and her family emigrated to Australia in 2012 during maternity leave as a secondary school teacher, when their daughter was seven months' old. In 2016 Eva was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer when she was 36.
She was still breastfeeding her son, Luca, who was 8 months old at the time. Her daughter, Mia, was in kindy preparing to start school. Eva underwent four months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, 5 weeks of daily radiotherapy, and had her ovaries removed. She was then put on hormone medication to reduce the chance of the cancer returning. Simon, a doctor, took six months off work to look after Eva and their children during those first months of brutal treatment.
Unfortunately, the cancer recurred in 2018 less than a year after Eva finished treatment. It has now spread to innumerable bones and her liver. Cancer which has spread from the original site is also known as advanced, metastatic, secondary, or stage IV cancer, and is by definition incurable. Eva has no family history of any cancers and was otherwise very fit and well. Genetic testing has shown that Eva may have a rare, TP53 gene mutation.
Eva is now 40 and in the last year, she has been on six different treatments, as well as undergoing radiotherapy for her bone pain. Three weeks ago Eva and Simon found out that her cancer failed to respond to the latest chemotherapy, during which she developed new liver tumours. The oncologist has advised that Eva's time is likely very limited.
Mia and Luca are now 9 and 5 years old. Eva's greatest wish is to spend as much time together as a family to make memories and provide them all with the support that they need in the coming months. The family hopes to raise money to cover living expenses, including their mortgage, so that Simon can reduce his hours at work and when the time comes, can remain at home to care for Eva and support their children. They also hope to cover ongoing out-of-pocket costs for Eva's treatment.
Despite hoping for miracles, they realise that Eva's cancer has been very resistant to treatment from the start. Eva is still receiving palliative chemotherapy (chemotherapy to try and reduce her symptoms and slow the growth of the cancer) but the failure of her last regimen shows that the prognosis is poor.
They recognise that there are many needs in the world right now, many far greater than their own, and Simon hopes that he can one day pass on these kindnesses.
For those who want to see or follow a bit more of their lives, you can follow Simon on Instagram at @the_art_of_living_and_dying. You can also follow the blog he wrote during Eva's first diagnosis of cancer here. Simon is on the Consumer and Carer Representative Panel for Palliative Care Australia.
***They ask for sensitivity with their children, for those who know them. Vague timelines have been discussed with them, and they know that Eva's cancer is incurable. Please be very discreet if you discuss this in front of your own children who may have contact with theirs. (Simon is happy to have discussions with anyone who is interested to know more about Eva's treatment and her illness.)***