‘Lost’ brain tumourspurs UK therapy

Jackson Lavell-LeeBusselton Dunsborough Times
Email Jackson Lavell-Lee
Cowaramup woman Natasha Rijavec is battling GTD.
Camera IconCowaramup woman Natasha Rijavec is battling GTD. Credit: Busselton-Dunsborough Times

A Cowaramup woman has travelled to Cambridge in the UK to undergo experimental immunotherapy treatment on a stage four Gestational Trophoblastic Disease after exhausting medical options in Australia.

Natasha Rijavec moved to Cowaramup from Perth two years ago to start a family with her partner Franco via IVF but after two miscarriages she was diagnosed with the pregnancy-related tumours.

Ms Rijavec first underwent successful lung and brain surgery in Perth, followed by three rounds of chemotherapy.

However, only months ago Ms Rijavec began experiencing seizures and an MRI found another malignant brain tumour, double the size of the last one.

“I was devastated on so many levels, I wanted a child and now I just want to live,” she said.

“The disease is very aggressive in only 3 months it was stage four and then after surgery again six months later it is even bigger, a lot can happen in 9 months.”

Ms Rijavec arrived in the UK two weeks ago to undergo immunotherapy treatment in Cambridge from world renowned GTD expert Professor Michael Seckl.

The treatment to redress the large tumour will take at least another two most costing approximately $100,000.

She began her second round of 10 hour chemotherapy yesterday which left her feeling “bloated” and “drained”.

“When I first arrived I was very tired and spent most of the time in bed, I’m away from my family and my beautiful dog,” she said.

More brain surgery would result in a potential loss of brain function and could cause problems with speech, memory, muscle weakness, poor balance, vision and coordination.

Ms Rijavec claims that she was misdiagnosed and sent home from a Perth Hospital and told an MRI was clear only to discover the tumour had returned during a check-up for seizures at Busselton Health Campus six months later.

“I was in disbelief when they told me about the second tumour,” she said.

“They had sent me home and said my MRI was clear but when I demanded another after my seizures I found out that the tumour had returned and made a formal complaint.

“I completely lost faith.”

A North Metropolitan Health Service spokesperson said at no stage were incorrect results communicated by Women and Newborn Health Service staff and that all results were communicated in a timely manner.

“We are committed to protecting the private details of all our patients and for this reason we are unable to share medical information related to this specific case,” he said.

The spokesperson said immunotherapy was not available in Australia to treat GTD as it is not standard treatment but “experimental and provided through a clinical trial setting only.”

“If I am to have any chance at a good quality of life then I have to give immunotherapy a go,” Ms Rijavec said.

“We already miss home so much.”

A GoFundMe page targeting $100,000 has been set up to help with the cost of the treatment which has received over $33,000 to donate go to https://www.gofundme.com/tashis-crazy-cancer-campaign-return-to-health.

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