Kathryn and her husband, Casey, have been dealing with Kathryn’s gynaecological cancer diagnosis since 2013, after a year of investigations. Her particular form of cancer usually affects post-menopausal women and there are less than 500 diagnoses in Australia each year. Kathryn was only 27 when she was diagnosed. In 2014, she had her first surgical removal. She was encouraged to have her babies sooner rather than later so she could finish treatments in this area.
Since 2014, Kathryn has had to take a lot of time off work for treatment. All of which is only able to take place in the capital city of Perth, Western Australia, which is 600km away from their home town of Kalgoorlie. She had exhausted all of her personal and sick leave and managed to get by whilst her husband went back to complete a mature age apprenticeship. After the birth of their first child, Mason, in 2018, and after she had used up her paid maternity leave, Kathryn returned to work 4 days a week to help to pay the mounting pile of bills.
In 2020, just 9 days after the birth of her second child, Caleb, and having returned to Kalgoorlie to start their life as a family of 4, Kathryn received a phone call from her oncologist. He told her the cancer was back and that she would require further treatment including chemotherapy and radiation. Kathryn and her new-born packed up and went to Perth when he was 5 weeks old, and did not return until he was 5 months old. In that time, her eldest son, Mason was being looked after by Casey, her father John, and her dear friend, Nicole. Mason only saw his Mummy twice in that period, when John made the long journey to bring Mason to visit her in Perth.
Kathryn’s incredible mother, Helen, relocated her work to Perth hospital offices so she was able to be with her daughter for support. She looked after Caleb when Kathryn was too sick to. She worked every day, except Tuesday, which is when she would take leave to look after Caleb while Kathryn had both chemo and radiation. She would work the day and take Kathryn to her radiation treatment in the afternoons.
This last round of treatment had such an impact on their entire family, not just financially but with tremendous emotional implications. Mason is still traumatised from being away from his Mummy. Since she was given the all clear and able to go home, Kathryn has spent countless nights on the floor in his bedroom to help with his night terrors.
The year 2021 started out well and good, with no cancer in sight. It was the year they would treasure being cancer free and get back to a normal life, making special memories.
Just last week, Kathryn had a call from her oncologist who gave her news that shook her world. Her cancer was back, this time worse than ever.
The cancer had returned, quite aggressively. Undergoing radical surgery to prevent it from spreading and reducing her chances of becoming terminal is her only option, as it has turned invasive. She will undertake a full hysterectomy as well as removal of her bowel and bladder, resulting in permanent implications, such as requiring an ileostomy bag (catheter to the stomach) as well as a colostomy bag for the rest of her life. This is the only option she has for survival and to be able to see her boys grow up.
Mason just turned 3 in January, and Caleb will be celebrating his first birthday the same day she heads to Perth for her operation. Kathryn is only 34. Kathryn is so fearful that this birthday party will be the last time she sees her loved ones.
Once again, Kathryn will head to Perth with her mother. So that Casey can continue to work and pay the bills, Mason and Caleb will continue to attend day-care each day and will stay with Kathryn’s friend Nicole, in Kalgoorlie, who also works full time. The boys will be with Casey and John on the weekends. Kathryn will be gone for a few months for the treatment, but it will likely take her the rest of the year to recover, preventing her from being able to work. She does not have enough sick leave accrued and her income protection access is being questioned due to the fact she was on Maternity leave when she requested it, which is not considered ‘at work’.
Kathryn and her family have not ever sought financial assistance on this cancer rollercoaster. Despite all of her ordeals and stress, every time you see Kathryn, she has a smile on her face and most people wouldn’t even know of the hardships she has endured. To date, they have relied solely on the support of family and friends alone. As the saying goes, it takes a village, and my goodness what an incredible village they are lucky to have.
When I suggested starting this page, she said quote “I never thought I would be the kind of person that would need a Go-Fund me page” but humbly agreed to allow me, hoping to help pay some bills and buy some nappies and formula for the boys. However, she almost tried to talk me out of it again, insisting there are more people who are worse off than her.
So here we are, I got my way and Kathryn has conceded. I’m hoping we can all dig deep to help them and raise enough to cover a few trips to Perth so that Casey and the boys can see their wife/mummy more frequently, to maybe even cover the cost of day-care and best case scenario, allow her to take away the pressure and stress of having to return to work immediately in order to continue making mortgage payments and pay for treatment costs. She deserves to recover comfortably and be given an opportunity to spend some quality time with her family. It is going to take a lot for Kathryn to learn how to live with her new devices.
Please help the Tonkins. They are living your worst nightmare. If there was a cure for cancer I am sure we would all give them that, but this is the closest thing we can think of to help them.
Good luck Kathryn, we are all thinking of you xxx
- Steven and Untie Jan Drake-Brockman
- Tanya Thomson
- Eve and Mick Phelan
- Margot McKenzie
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