An Auckland woman has been diagnosed with cancer for the third time in eight years at the age of just 38.

Mon Macdonald, nicknamed "Mighty Mon" by friends due to her positive attitude, completed marathons and worked full time while battling breast and ovarian cancer in 2010 and 2016.

And although she's determined to fight this cancer with the same tenacity Macdonald told the Herald on Sunday she believed the disease she was suffering from this time - acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) - would be the "hardest one" yet.

When doctors told her and her husband Gabe last month that she had AML they used the "T-word" - terminal. They gave her a prognosis of six to eight weeks.


"For 38 years old I find that a bit hard," Macdonald said.

Her oncologist also told the couple it was too risky for Macdonald to have chemotherapy because of the amount she's already had, meaning the only treatment that could prolong her life is a drug called Vidaza, which could cost more than $100,000.

Although it is approved by Pharmac, Vidaza isn't always funded for leukaemia patients.

A spokesman for Pharmac said the organisation was unable to comment on an individual patient's application for medicine funding.

However, generally if a prescriber wanted to use a treatment that wasn't on its Pharmaceutical Schedule at all or for the patient's clinical circumstances they could submit a special application.

Macdonald's doctor has put in an application for funding and is awaiting a decision.

But the couple are also fundraising to pay for it themselves because of the aggressive nature of Macdonald's cancer and the urgency to start treatment.

The pair, who met by chance at a North Shore bus stop in 2001 and married two years later, aimed to raise $150,000 for six cycles of monthly doses of Vidaza as well as living costs.


Because they want to spend as much time together as possible, Gabe will give up his job to care for Macdonald when she is unable to work.

"It's just a very complicated journey - fitting 30 years of love into a few weeks really," he said.

Gabe said he would withdraw money from Kiwisaver and they were considering using their credit cards to pay for some of the treatment but they couldn't afford to fund it all themselves.

If they have any money left over from donations they'll likely give it to charity.

Mon McDonald (right) is fighting cancer for the third time in eight years. She hopes to make it to at least her 40th birthday and spend as time with husband Gabe (left) as possible. Photo / Nick Reed
Mon McDonald (right) is fighting cancer for the third time in eight years. She hopes to make it to at least her 40th birthday and spend as time with husband Gabe (left) as possible. Photo / Nick Reed

In late 2016, Macdonald was diagnosed with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome - a genetic condition which makes sufferers susceptible to certain cancers including breast cancer and acute leukaemia.

"The first two cancers, there was a little of a 'why me' thing. But when I heard about this gene I was like 'oh well there's nothing I can do, I was born with it' so I sort of made peace with that," Macdonald said of the diagnosis.

"But I still feel a little bit cheated. I would love to see 40 and I don't think that's a lot to ask."

Although she was now too tired to go to the gym - something she loved doing - Macdonald planned to keep her job in marketing for as long as possible.

"I just want to keep at least one thing normal. If I stay at home we'll just feel sorry for ourselves, I'll feel like cancer's won the battle," she said.

Gabe told the Herald on Sunday although it was hard seeing his wife suffer from cancer, he had come to terms with it and wanted to make the most of the time they had left together.

"Some couples never spend much time with each other and then one of them has an accident and that's the way they go and they live with regret. We're just lucky we've got some time together so we can actually just connect."

To support Macdonald go to her Givealittle page