Seven months after South African Stacey Schultz touched down in New Zealand in pursuit of better living, the 31-year-old was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.
The Whangārei teacher has been undergoing chemotherapy but needs to raise $24,536 for an additional non-funded treatment that may be the key to extending her life.
Schultz said she was happy at home but New Zealand was safer, wages higher, and offered a better work-life balance. Plus her older sister lived in Whangārei.
“I just wanted to learn a new culture, new ways, see what it’s like, how it is.”
She never thought her adventure would take the turn it did.
“I felt quite normal then I went skydiving,” Schultz said.
About a week later she started feeling sensations in her breast, almost like a heart attack, but they were fleeting. They happened about three times a day, twice a week.
Eventually, the sensations stopped, so Schultz didn’t think too much of it. That was until they came back and “stayed for longer”.
She checked her breast and found a hard lump, but thought it was linked to the usual changes brought on by hormones. Her doctor thought the same, but still made a referral to a specialist.
The day after Schultz’s GP appointment, her breast started hurting. It then doubled in size.
“Then I knew something’s not right.”
She confided in a Whangārei Girls’ High School colleague about what was happening. Her workmate told her to go to the doctor.
A week later Schultz sat in her GP’s office crying as she explained how her breast had changed and something inside of her was saying, this is not normal.
“It was changing colour between purple, brown, orange through different times of the day.”
Schultz’s doctor made an urgent referral for her to see a specialist as soon as possible.
“I literally just started crying and I couldn’t stop.”
The one question on her mind: “Did I leave this too late?”
The answer was no, things had just happened fast.
Schultz underwent numerous tests and scans at the Mauri Ora Breast Clinic. The day after she had a lymph node biopsy, Schultz was at work when she received a call saying her results had come back.
“The first question I asked was, ‘how bad is it’? And all the nurse could say was ‘I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news’.”
She broke down. Later that day while at her doctor’s, she learned she had an aggressive form of breast cancer.
“You always hear it from people that you never expect that it would be you,” Schultz said.
“For some reason I just kept feeling it’s not true. I went through every scenario that I could go through and I said, no it’s just because I went skydiving ... something has just happened. It can’t be cancer.”
Schultz is raising money via a Givealittle page to receive Perjeta, also known as pertuzumab, which is considered a life-extending drug for women with advanced breast cancer. Her treatment is not funded by Pharmac.
“The doctor explained that the treatment that I’m getting funded through the Government has a 50 per cent chance of coming out positive ,but if I have this extra treatment it bumps it up to 60, even 65 per cent, difference,” she said.
Schultz said most of her own savings will go towards the treatment, but “if I’m not at work I don’t get paid”.
For now she is continuing with chemotherapy and counting down for her parents to arrive in the country from South Africa on December 9. Getting them here was made possible thanks to a separate fundraising effort.
“I just want people to know that I’m thankful for everything that they do. For thinking of me, for giving something, for everything and anything.
“I’m an outsider and people are still willing to help. It’s amazing,” Schultz said.