For many, a cancer diagnosis spells a bout of nauseating radiation and chemotherapy.
But for 36-year-old Northland woman Alethea Nathan, the treatment plan for her stage 4 lung cancer comprises time with family including her 18-month-old son, a positive attitude, healthy food, supplements and high doses of intravenous vitamin C.
Ms Nathan now wants to thank the people who have donated more than $52,000 to her through crowdfunding platform Givealittle, giving her the choice to pursue alternative treatments costing up to $700 a week.
Her May diagnosis showed she had aggressive adenocarcinoma - non-small cell lung cancer - that has spread to her pelvis, ribs, and lymph nodes.
Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of lung cancer in non-smokers, is more common in women than men, and is more likely to occur in younger people than other types of lung cancer.
Ms Nathan did not ask doctors for a prognosis and said the decision to take charge of her own treatment came quickly.
"As soon as I found out, I was booked in a few days later to go and do high-dose vitamin C and take supplements."
The oncologist she saw did not suggest chemo but gave her a prescription for a particular drug.
"For the time being, I've put the drug to the side. I feel I want to give my body a few months to let the Vitamin C do what it needs to do, then have a reassessment at the 3 or 4-month mark. My idea is I want to build my immune system up and give it good tools. I've watched family members go through chemo and it's not pleasant."
Ms Nathan said the choice to pursue the "natural" route has only been possible with the support of family, friends and strangers via Givealittle.
"I get overwhelmed every time I think about it or look at it ... There's even a couple of $1000 donations just under 'guest user'.
"Without Givealittle I wouldn't have the choice to pursue and follow other treatments. It's very, very costly and I wouldn't be able to sustain it."
She is one of nearly 100 Givealittle users asking for help funding natural cancer treatments, particularly intravenous Vitamin C, which has shown some positive results in some cancer patients, but doesn't work for all and is not publicly funded.
Ms Nathan's message is "trust your gut - if you feel something isn't right, it probably isn't".
It took more than 10 months of going back to the doctor to get a diagnosis, with many of her complaints mirroring those common in new parents. Her son, Taikura, with partner Kelly Kahukiwa, is now 18 months old.
"I'd had chest pain and nagging back issues. But I was breastfeeding and always carrying the baby ... I was very fatigued. But then, I had periods of time where my baby was waking up three times a night. If I hadn't had a child and was having all the same things, maybe there would have been other questions asked."
Eventually, after multiple rounds of blood tests indicated everything was normal, Ms Nathan was sent for a scan.
"I asked [the specialist] 'Is it cancer?' and he said 'Highly likely'. It's a pretty surreal thing to be told. You prepare yourself for the worst. Unfortunately I got the worst. I figure I have to be positive.
"It's amazing what happens when you have such a diagnosis.
"Things that used to worry you just drop away. It's a diagnosis but I believe the body wants to heal and that, given the right tools, it can heal."
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