Like me, you probably grew up with the knowledge that life is not fair. Right? But sometimes things happen that reinforce this a little too strongly, such as when someone we know is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.
“’Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both…’
Robert Frost’s words resonate with me as I reach this juncture in my life. The traveller must make a crucial decision about how to proceed with life. The first road for me would be to keep my diagnosis private, commence the neurologist’s recommended, but risky, disease-modifying drugs, and quietly go about my business as MS silently continues to damage my brain and nerves. The other road, the one I have chosen, is much more scary but much more hopeful…”
I sat with an email in my hands: a letter from an ex-student of mine, Kristy Cruise, beginning a journey of radical treatment to battle a disease which was ravaging her body: multiple sclerosis.
From twenty years ago, I remembered Kristy’s sunny personality, her consideration of others and her insatiable eagerness to learn. We shared a love of language and food, journeys Kristy explored on multiple trips overseas, and we’d reconnected through these interests. Now she was sharing with me another more serious journey.
Diagnosed with MS in February 2013, Kristy was an Emergency Department nurse at the Mater Children’s Hospital, she had a high achieving career, and was also a mother to two little boys and wife to Keith, also a nurse.
By March 2013, Kristy’s MS had progressed to the extent that she was immobile for periods of time. In typical Kristy style, she researched extensively and decided to embark on radical stem cell and chemotherapy treatment (HSCT) in Moscow, a treatment which had been trialled by the FDA in the US for decades, showed far better success rates than other treatments, but was not available in Australia. An informed and eloquent patient, Kristy documented every step in her blog Moving Mountains, her words a beacon of hope to other sufferers.
As Kristy herself said, “I am a fighter, determined to hold my ground in my own heavyweight title fight. My oldest friends would expect nothing less from me. MS has picked on the wrong girl.”
With the trip to Moscow costing over $40,000, friends rallied to help her raise the funds, with about half the money raised before her trip. Upon her return, Kristy found that she could not access her superannuation to repay her debt, as she intended, because she had applied after her treatment rather than before.
“MS has given me a true clarity about what is important in life… I look forward to ‘paying forward’ all the kindness that has come my way since I become ill.”
Despite being left with a debt, Kristy has spent the time since her return from Russia telling her story, providing information for other MS sufferers but, more importantly, as an advocate for the use of HSCT in Australia. She has appeared on 60 Minutes, SBS’ Insight, The Project, ABC News, The Today Show, as well as being featured in Woman’s Day. All the profits she has received from her talks have been donated to Youngcare.
Kristy is now well, but remains unable to work due to the vaccination requirements of her job, so now it’s time for others to give something back, to help Kristy wipe out the $24,000 credit card debt remaining from her treatment.
Paul Chambers and Mark Van Meurs from ChefsProBono are holding a fundraiser lunch for Kristy on January 4, 2015. The chefs are donating their time, wholesalers are donating the food (see list of sponsors on the website) and a Thermomix will be raffled on the day. Raffle tickets are $10, and lunch tickets $60 for adults. Come and join me at a Feast 4 Kristy, or you can give a donation via the website. It’s a chance to make a real difference.
Find more details at http://feast4kristy.weebly.com
NOTE 2018: Kristy Cruise is now in remission.