In January many people are on a high from Christmas and New Year celebrations but MoniqueComer, 18, was battling news of being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Monique has spent the last two months in and out of hospital and began chemotherapy on Monday.
She said being diagnosed with cancer shattered her, but the biggest blow was when her specialist told her chemotherapy could cause fertility problems and halt her dream of having a family.
“I didn’t want to accept that because having a family one day was my goal and the biggest priority for me. I have a long-term boyfriend of three years and a family is something we’ve always wanted,” Monique said.
“So my boyfriend, Josh, surprised me by calling The Kyle and Jackie O Show and the next day he told me they wanted to help. Kyle and Jackie O gave us $2000 and put us in contact with Dr David Knight from DemeterFertility who said they’d do a $17,000 procedure for us. I’ve had a lot of specialist appointments and it’s about $400 for every appointment so this has really helped.
“I was both shocked and relieved I didn’t have to stress about the money any more. Not many people want to give and help out that much. I cried when I found out – my reaction was actually videoed by my boyfriend.”
The Minto resident wanted to thank the hosts of the radio show and Dr Knight for their generosity.
“I feel so overwhelmed at the generosity and kindness. I just want to say thank you for everything you’ve done. You’ve given us the chance to have a family one day.
“The plan is they will freeze my eggs for five years. That’s roughly around when I’d like to start a family. Dr Knight and his team are excellent – they were so kind and accommodating during the tests.
“I was injected with a needle for six days so that was a long process. I was eager to get it all over and done with but I was feeling really excited. I think it’s because they made me feel so comfortable!”
She said having fertility options has given her hope. But Monique still has a long way to go.
“They said the cancer could return and they’ve given me a heads-up that I’ll lose my hair from chemotherapy. I’m very upset because I’m only 18 and I love my hair. It’ll be a big thing to adjust to – but I’d rather be alive than have hair.
“They’ve also given me a heads-up that I’m going to get quite sick, tired and cold. They can’t really give me a possible outcome of how things might turn out until they see how I react to the chemo.”
She’s still trying to get a grasp on something she never saw coming.
“There were signs something was wrong but I didn’t think it’d be cancer – in six months I’d suddenly lost 15 kilos, had trouble sleeping at night and would feel nausea and get sick at times.
“I went to the doctors who did blood tests and biopsies but nothing showed. Then I found a lump in my leg and the doctor said it was nothing but it grew bigger and bigger. It started as the size of a pea and grew to the size of a golf ball. It didn’t look good.
“After seeking another opinion and going to my family doctor, I was recommended to a specialist at Liverpool Hospital. They checked my leg and did an operation to take out the lump. That’s when they discovered it was cancer.”
She remembers the moment she heard the news.
“My mum is like my best friend, we’re really close. The doctor sat us down and I saw when he told her, it broke her heart. She was very upset because I’m her only daughter.
“Then they checked my body to see if there was anything else wrong. But hopefully I’ll be able to move on soon. I was s’posed to start my first year of uni this year.”
Dr Knight, who owns Demeter Fertility at Liverpool, said when The Kyle and Jackie O Show unexpectedly contacted him to help Monique he was more than happy to play a part.
“We thought the sensible thing would be to step up and give them a hand. The girl’s boyfriend was going to sell his car to help pay for the treatment so one day they could have a family. I think when anyone puts their property on the line for something like this it’s absolutely worth supporting. I have children and my eldest are about the same age and if something happened to them I’d hope other people would step up and help,” he said.
“The cost is irrelevant to us. When you’re doing something for people in dire need, going home and feeling good about it is a far better reward than getting money in the bank. The world’s a difficult place and there’s a whole lot of bad in this world so I think we could do with some nice news.
“Frankly though, I hope she never has to use the treatment and they can still have children naturally. But knowing there are options, that’s very helpful.”
The freezing of eggs and the process of IVF that they’re offering the couple usually costs between $15,000 and $20,0000. However, this isn’t the first time the clinic has helped a couple pro bono.
“Last year we had some refugees who came from a country where they had to live through many difficulties. Their family was persecuted there and they lost a huge portion of family, too, so we did the same for them. We don’t do it for everyone who turns up but when it’s needed, it’s the right thing to do. The other way of looking at it is the golden rule. If my family was in that scenario, wouldn’t it be really cool for someone to help us out? Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
He said everyone deals with the process of IVF differently and for some it can be extremely challenging and emotional.
But the opportunity has allowed people to become parents.
“Everyone deals differently with the process. Without this technology there’d be a high pile of parents who wouldn’t have children. It’s not 100 per cent foolproof but it’s helped people get pregnant – including my wife Sonya. We used IVF to have our son Sam. So we understand.”
- David and Sonya Knight previously told the Champion how they had their own son Sam with IVF. Read about their experience here.