Just getting out of bed and dressed is a win for Andrew Hercus.

Every day is a battle for the 41-year-old from Kāpiti who is trying to keep life normal for two young sons while battling terminal melanoma.

And working out how to pay for two unfunded drugs that fight the cancer is distracting from much-needed family time.

Sharing their story with Kāpiti News, Andrew and his partner Kiri Morehu describe how quickly their lives were turned upside down.


"The year started on the right foot as we had just finished our six-week holiday at the top of the North Island," Andrew said.

They took their children, Tyler, 11, and Cobi, 9, to Rainbow's End, the zoo and visiting Paihia and Russell.

"It was absolutely perfect," Kiri says. "After two years of saving we had such a good holiday away.

"But a week later our whole life turned upside down."

Family time is all about making memories. Photo / Rosalie Willis
Family time is all about making memories. Photo / Rosalie Willis

Going to a consultation to check out a troublesome mole by his left ear, Andrew ended up having the mole removed then and there.

A further biopsy and CT scans showed Andrew was carrying the mutation B-RAF gene.

"Suddenly, we were no longer dealing with a little misbehaving mole, but with the diagnosis of stage four metastatic melanoma a terminal cancer, with six to 12 months life expectancy."

Told it was melanoma, Andrew had surgery to remove the primary seven nodes and his left salivary gland leaving a 30cm scar from the top of his left ear down to his upper chest.


Causing nerve damage making swallowing, even of his own saliva, like shards of glass moving down his throat, Andrew also temporarily lost the use of his left arm.

However this was only the start of the journey.

The surgery did not get all the cancer with it quickly moving throughout his body.

Andrew then tried immunotherapy and radiation therapy, both which were unsuccessful.

"It is disheartening to say that all the funded ways to fight this cancer have failed," Andrew explains.

"Our only option is an unfunded combination drug Cotellic and Zelboraf costing over $10,000 per month.

Andrew Hercus's scaring from surgery to remove melanoma. Photo / Rosalie Willis
Andrew Hercus's scaring from surgery to remove melanoma. Photo / Rosalie Willis

"There is nothing that will kill my cancer. We are hoping now the drugs I'm on will give me a better quality of life.

"As long as it's working I could get up to four to five years."

If the drug continues to work for Andrew he will be on the drug for the rest of his life.

However as it is unfunded the family now has to raise $10,000 per month on top of their day-to-day expenses keeping a roof over their head.

"It's taken us quite a few months to get our heads around it, so we kept it to ourselves for a while," Andrew said.

However, down to one income with Andrew unable to work since January, "there was no other way for us but to go public and ask for financial help," Kiri said.

"After we had the first treatment we had a talk and realised we are really not going to be able to do this on our own so we set up a Givealittle page.

"We are truly grateful that we got that holiday before the sickness, that the kids have good memories of before the cancer.

Andrew Hercus and wife-to-be Kiri Morehu. Photo / Rosalie Willis
Andrew Hercus and wife-to-be Kiri Morehu. Photo / Rosalie Willis

"Life is now about creating memories with the kids.

"That's all we want to do with the rest of the time we've got.

"We feel like we had a great holiday so now any funding we get will be funding the drugs and keeping the roof over our house without financial stress."

Living on the Kāpiti Coast with a view of the ocean from their living room, Andrew has to choose how he spends his energy.

Often that means trying to get up in time to see the kids off for school and resting during the day so he has energy to play with them when they get home.

"Even though I'm taking the same 18 pills every morning, every day really is very different.

"My big thing is trying not to stay in bed. Fatigue is the biggest battle.

"If I can get out of bed I know its going to be a good day."

A fortnight after starting the combination drugs, unforeseen circumstances sent Andrew back to hospital.

Finding their neighbour on the footpath having a cardiac arrest while on the way to the beach last month, Andrew and Kiri gave compressions until the ambulance arrived.

"Both the adrenalin and energy used, and the come-down from this sent Andrew's body into a chemical imbalance and knocked him out for three days flat in hospital," Kiri said.

"It was scary, a life or death situation," Andrew said.

"Our first response was to do compressions, but it knocked me out completely, three days I don't even remember."

Operating on a need to know basis, the hardest part for the couple has been working out what to tell Tyler and Cobi throughout the journey.

"It's hard being positive 24/7 but we are just trying to be strong," Andrew said.

"We want to prepare them for when they're older.

"They are nine and 11 now, we want them ready when they are teens to understand what its like to be men in the real world and we want Andrew to teach them those things," Kiri said.

"It's the man skills that I can't teach them.

"We don't want to push it too early, but we want him to be able to do the things with his kids that they do with teenagers, just that little bit earlier."

Focusing on creating memories, after 15 years together and engaged for seven years, Andrew and Kiri are hoping getting married will be a bright spot, something to remember among all the hospital visits.

With a dress and photographers booked, Kiri's excitement is tangible as she talks about the lasting memories it will create.

Valuing everyday they have, the family needs the help of the community to raise $10,000 a month to fund Andrew's treatment and buy them more time as a family.

To donate visit their Givealittle page here.