Catherine Gaffaney is a general reporter based in Auckland.

Amanda Ferreira, the cancer-stricken Auckland mother who fought for more time with her girls

Amanda Ferreira with her daughters Monet, Nouvel and Valentina. Photo / Supplied
Amanda Ferreira with her daughters Monet, Nouvel and Valentina. Photo / Supplied

Auckland mum and Air New Zealand hostess Amanda Ferreira made headlines last year when she went public with her courageous fight for a cancer treatment she hoped would give her two more precious years with her three young daughters.

She died on Sunday evening, a year-and-a-half after she was first diagnosed with cancer on her liver and bowel, and today her family and friends will gather to salute her bravery at a memorial service.

Her mother, Liz James, told the Herald this morning that her daughter had helped her in her own cancer fight, and she called on the Government to make more treatments available.

"I'm angry. So many walls were hit," she said. "My beautiful girl had to go around the world to get treatments. It's worth fighting for when three little daughters are involved."

She added: "I had breast cancer and so had a mastectomy. My daughter was there for me.

"Along her journey she met so many people who had also hit walls. It's all to do with pharmaceuticals. There needs to be more funding for treatments."

Mrs Ferreira's death was announced on the Facebook page that documented her struggle. "It is with a very, very heavy heart which is now totally broken - we are so sad to say our beautiful AJ lost her fight this evening - and as you can tell by the brightness of the full moon - she's already watching over us all with her sparkly angel wings firmly attached ..."

Mrs Ferreira was admitted to hospital on Boxing Day 2014 with abdominal pain, which doctors initially thought was a liver infection.

A few weeks later, it was discovered she had inoperable secondary cancer on her liver and bowel, and chemotherapy treatment would only prolong her life.

One Dollar Warriors fundraising group last year raised money through Givealittle for Mrs Ferreira to get Selective Internal Radiation Therapy at Wesley Hospital in Brisbane.

It was hoped the treatment would allow her to have at least two more years with her family. But according to another Givealittle page, the treatment didn't reduce her tumours.

Further money was raised for her to have a range of alternative treatments in Bangkok. She returned to New Zealand early this month and went into Hospice care.

Below, the Herald reprints an interview Ms Ferreira gave in October last year in which she movingly describes her shock on being told she had an inoperable tumour and her determination not to give up for the sake of her family.

'I don't want to miss out on being a mummy'

First published by the Daily Mail on October 25, 2015

Amanda Ferreira says she did not come to this earth to be a part-time mum.

Every second the 44-year-old spends with her three girls - Monet, 10, Nouvel, 6 and Valentina, 3 - is precious, and every day she thanks God she is alive.

On January 5, doctors told Mrs Ferreira she had cancer.

The tumour, they said, was inoperable and her time left short, but the brave mother-of-three has fought against her diagnosis, and told Daily Mail Australia she hopes specialised treatment will give her enough time to find a cure.

Mrs Ferreira first felt there was something wrong on Christmas Day.

A hug from a relative left the Aucklander in pain, and a trip to the doctor the next day revealed she had an inflamed liver.

X-rays and a cat scan showed spots on her liver, but having been recently diagnosed with giardia after a trip to Hong Kong doctors initially put the abnormalities down to being abscesses.

It was not until a few weeks later that the Air New Zealand flight attendant was told her devastating diagnosis.

Mrs Ferreira, known to friends and family as AJ, had inoperable secondary cancer and chemotherapy treatment would work only to prolong her life.


"I remember looking out the window," Mrs Ferreira said.

"I had three babies, all of them at that hospital. I only came in here with a sore side, I never had any symptoms, no symptoms that indicated anything was wrong with me apart from the giardia. I don't want to miss out on being a mummy... I did not come on this earth to be a part time mum."

Doctors found the cancer in her liver had spread from a large tumour in Mrs Ferreira's colon, a tumour that had gone unnoticed for between seven and 10 years.

"I had three pregnancies, three babies, with no indication," she said.

Mrs Ferreira's husband, Mark, friends and family rallied together in support, and a week after her diagnosis she started treatment.

The treatment plan saw Mrs Ferreira taking the drug Avastin every three weeks.

Each round of treatment cost $4000, and her health insurance policy only covered two and a half rounds a year, prompting her to warn others to check their own insurance policies.

"It keeps me alive every month, it cuts the blood going to the tumours so it's got no food source," she said.

Mrs Ferreira's colleagues, known as her "Angel Team", at Air New Zealand helped raise the funds to keep her treatment going and they or friends accompany her to every medical appointment.

Because one of the larger tumours is sitting on a main artery doctors can't operate, but a specialised treatment known as Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT) could give Mrs Ferreira new hope.

The treatment is administered through an artery in the leg and delivered directly to the tumour.

"My body is quite healthy now, I was sitting at 42 kilograms but now I'm about 50 kilograms," Mrs Ferreira said.

"I can't get normal radiation because it's too invasive for my liver. With SIRT they find it gives patients another 20.8 months average with their life."

Mrs Ferreira hopes to undergo the treatment, which costs $20,000, at Brisbane's Wesley Hospital before Christmas.

She was able to raise the funds through a One Dollar Warriors fundraising page, with any additional money raised to go towards ongoing treatment.

With an extra 20.8 months time, Mrs Ferreira hopes another clinical trial will come out, or a cure will be found.

Mrs Ferreira has documented her cancer 'cruise', she does not like to call it a journey, through her Facebook page Help A Mama Out - But The Rust AJ.

She initially started the page to share updates with her colleagues from Air New Zealand, but it has also connected her with other women who are facing a similar diagnosis.

The love and support she has received from family and friends, and even strangers, has left Mrs Ferreira humbled.

"About four people I know in the last few weeks have passed from this disease. I'm just sitting on the ground, crying on my staircase. My little one piped up and said mum this isn't you, you have to fight this, cancer feeds off when you're scared.

"I thank the grace of God I'm here every single day. I want to stay alive."

- NZ Herald

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