A teen with cancer who has raised thousands of dollars for others is hoping kind-hearted Kiwis' will help fund the fight of her life.

Eva McGauley has raised more than more than $70,000 for others since she was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer - a rare type of head and neck cancer - in February 2015.

Just 15 at the time, she was told she had a stage four tumour behind her cheek and nose and other tumours in the lymph nodes in her neck.

McGauley had intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy and was told initially she was in remission. But she learned that her cancer had spread to her hip and a lymph node in her chest and that the disease was terminal.


For almost two years after the shattering diagnosis McGauley has continued to battle the illness while using her time to make a difference and help "create a world where I feel safe leaving my loved ones".

She set out to raise money for HELP, an Auckland-based sexual abuse assistance programme, and set up the charity Eva's Wish with the aim of stopping sexual violence and supporting survivors. The work has raised more than $70,000.

But now , a friend of the 18-year-old is appealing for Kiwis to help fund McGauley's treatment with a drug which she believes is keeping her alive - Keytruda.

Doctors had earlier suggested she try the immunotherapy drug as a last ditch-attempt in her cancer battle.

Before she started taking the drug she had a few large tumours which caused her pain and a bunch of little ones floating around.

"I had too many tumours to remember. It had metastasised, I had them all around my body," she told the Herald on Sunday.

Three months later they were all gone.

While the chemo had become too much for her body to handle, Keytruda had surprisingly few side effects and was giving Eva a quality of life she hadn't had in years.

Eva McGauley is being treated with the drug Keytruda. Photo / Dean Purcell.
Eva McGauley is being treated with the drug Keytruda. Photo / Dean Purcell.

"I haven't felt anything except for maybe a little bit of tiredness," Eva said.

It was uncharted territory, she said. But there was hope.

"I'm able to think about the future for the first time."

Keytruda worked wonders for many patients with terminal melanoma and was now being used to treat some lung, brain and bowel cancers.

It hadn't been used much for nasopharyngeal carcinoma but they decided to give it a try.

But the treatment comes at a cost – one she and her family are struggling to afford.

Pharmac agreed to fund the drug for melanoma patients after an outcry last year but everyone else has to go through the private hospital system.

Eva goes to Palmerston North for treatment every three weeks and the drug alone costs $4600 a pop.

A friend set up a Givealittle Page to help raise the $60,000 needed for the treatment – drug company Merck, Sharp and Dohme cover the cost of anything above $60,000 - but in the first month less than $14,000 was donated with most of that in the first two weeks.

Despite having raised so much for others, Eva wasn't disappointed about the slow-down in the fundraising efforts for her own treatment.

"I don't have more right than anyone else," she said. 'I'm very lucky to be in a country where it's available even though it is through the private system."

As for whether it should be publically funded for all types of cancer, there's no question in Eva's mind.

"I think it absolutely should. The extra time it's given me with my family and the state of life…"

As for the future, it's too soon to say. Keytruda is such a new drug no long term research on its effects have been completed so how long it will keep working and whether it is a complete cure is yet to be seen.

But for now, Eva's Wish will keep her busy "challenging, empowering and educating young people to change the world and to create a better, safer New Zealand for the kids of tomorrow".

About Keytruda

• It is an immunotherapy drug also known as Pembrolizumab.
• It blocks the activity of a molecule called PD-1, a protein that prevents T cells from recognising and attacking inflamed tissues and cancer cells. By blocking PD-1, pembrolizumab increases your immune system's ability to attack cancer cells and tumours. The drug works to unleash T cells so that they can invade cancer anywhere in your body.
• It is given intravenously, usually every three weeks, with each treatment taking about half an hour.