Making memories through clinical trials

West Australian family the Zuks were introduced to cancer in 2013. Cancer had never been a part of their lives. They were all fit and healthy, or so they thought. But at the age of 60, Rita, mother to Lincoln, Renee and Clayton, wife to Len, and the heart of the family, detected a lump. Days later, Rita was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. It was a complete shock to the family. How can you digest that someone you love so dearly who is so integral to your life has developed a life-threatening cancer; how can you possibly settle the feeling of trepidation in your stomach?

Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy schedules were arranged. Rita endured it all with incredible strength and resilience. Sadly, in less than two years the cancer had returned, this time as non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Renee had just relocated to Broome a month prior.

More chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant was the next course of treatment for Rita. For many, this treatment is brutal, and you cling to the hope that it will all be worthwhile and that this is the treatment that eradicates your cancer. But it didn’t. Renee moved home to be by her mother’s side for whatever was to come next. More chemotherapy. Remission. Excitement and hope. The heartbreaking inevitable return a short few weeks later. Devastation.

Then, a glimmer of hope was offered. Prof Chan Cheah had opened a clinical trial offering a new treatment to relapsed non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients. The trial is run by Blood Cancer Research WA through the support of the Snowdome Foundation.

Rita’s trial changed her life and the spark of hope it provided shone brightly for all the Zuks family. Their mother was not only on a treatment that appeared to be effective, but it was also providing her a good quality of life.

Renee moved back to Broome as her mother resumed her life. Over time, Rita developed resistance to her trial treatment, but Prof Cheah always had another trial on offer. In total Rita moved through 5 clinical trials. Each one extending her life without stealing her quality of life.

The four extra years provided her with the opportunity to see her first and second grandchildren born and the eldest start school. It allowed the whole family to have more time and many more joyous occasions together, building precious memories. The trials allowed Rita to fully enjoy the last years of her life.

No words can express what it meant to Renee to have those four extra years with her mum. Renee knows and believes in the value of funding blood cancer research and would love to see more people have access to life saving clinical trials.

If you would like to give to give people like Rita hope please donate to the Snowdome Foundation.