Eleni Molden had just spent her first blissful Christmas as a family of three. Eleni and her husband, David, had longed for a child and when they conceived, both were overjoyed to be spending the holidays with their new baby.
Sadly, things were about to take an uncertain turn the next month.
It was on a warm summer afternoon that Eleni accidentally hit herself with the pram she was pulling out for Charlotte. The bruise and lump on her neck was much more painful than she anticipated.
She had been feeling out of sorts for several months before her pregnancy but tests found nothing unusual. Despite also developing a persistent cough during pregnancy, she brushed it off.
“I thought it was just part of pregnancy and having a person growing inside of you.” she says.
It took a series of operations and tests before Eleni was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive type of cancer, adenocarcinoma of the thymus. The thymus is located between the lungs and the underlying cause of the cancer is unknown.
I’m so grateful for the support we've received that helps us accelerate research and improve treatments for patients just like Eleni. There’s still a long way to go until we can uncover the causes of all cancers and tailor the best treatment for each patient. I hope you’ll give a gift today to help us achieve that future.
After her diagnosis, Eleni was immediately referred to Professor Michael Boyer at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse where she went through rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Last day of chemotherapy.
She says, “Professor Boyer knows that I’ve got 50 questions every time I go in. Even though he’s so busy, he always takes the time to respond to all of them.”
Even with the dedicated care of the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse team, the experience was still tough. Fighting back tears, she reflects, “Every Monday I had five hours of chemo, I then had to drive almost two hours every day for radiation. By the end of the week, I didn’t want to get in the car, but when you’re in the middle of it, you do what needs to be done.”
Radiation therapy for thymic chest tumour.
Despite the exhausting treatment, she was told that the cancer had metastasized to her brain in September. Making matters worse, she says, “The brain tumour had ruptured, so I had massive headaches and I just didn’t know what to do. I honestly didn’t think that I would be alive – the statistics were not pretty.”
Weeks before Charlotte’s first birthday, Eleni faced the terrifying prospect of neurosurgery. She recalled, “Dr Shivalingam has such a good bedside manner– she’s very compassionate and actually made us feel comfortable about the surgery.”
I hear stories like Eleni’s far too often in my role as Patient Advocate at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. Which is why I am asking for your help today to provide additional support and care for patients like Eleni.
You can help keep families like Eleni’s together this Christmas with your gift today.
With the support of our wonderful donors, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse was able to purchase the BrainLab Neuronavigation System used in Eleni’s surgery. This equipment allows neurosurgeons to navigate the brains’ twists and turns with greater precision and confidence than ever before. Eleni was amazed at how well she felt and how few physical scars she had from the surgery.
Like many others, I may never be cancer-free, and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse will always be part of my life. Because of the people and facilities, I feel like it is a second home. Certainly not what I had in mind, but I am lucky to have it.
Thank you for helping provide a safe haven to patients like Eleni, who are facing the greatest challenge of their lives. I am heartened by your support and honoured by your trust in us.
For now, Eleni is back at work part-time, she’s continuing with check-ups at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and is enjoying life with her husband and daughter.
“I’m having a lot of fun with my little girl, we recently travelled together to Copenhagen to visit my brother.” she says. “There is life after cancer and that is thanks to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.”
Eleni and Charlotte Molden.
I’m incredibly grateful for the help of people like you in our community who make stories like Eleni’s possible. Thank you for taking the time to read my letter, I wish you and your loved ones all the very best over Christmas.
Gail O'Brien AO
Patient Advocate and Board Member