THEY should have been enjoying the first years of their marriage, looking forward to creating a family and a long life together.
Instead, Bunbury couple Holly and Steve Howe have spent the last two years fighting for Holly’s life, throwing everything they can at an aggressive form of cancer that has ravaged her body.
Now, they are nearly at the end of the line. Still battling and hopeful but realistic that they may soon have to focus on making the best of the time they have left.
Six weeks before she was due to be married, at just 28 years-old, doctors told Ms Howe she had a cancerous tumour in her large intestine that would have to be surgically removed and followed up with six months of chemotherapy.
Hopes that this would be the end of her run in with cancer were quickly dashed. Sadly, the two years since have proved harrowing, a horrible version of whack-a-mole where every time they think they have the cancer beaten it crops up in another part of her body.
She’s had surgery and chemo to remove tumours in her neck, liver, ovaries (removed without being able to freeze any eggs), brain, and now they are back to the beginning with recent news that tumours have once again emerged in her abdomen.
She’s now down to the last chemotherapy option on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, having exhausted all the others to no avail. The next step would be to find the $10,000 a month it would cost to try another, non-subsidised chemotherapy.
Mr Howe said it had been hard to juggle work commitments with the need to look after his wife during the ordeal.
“I feel guilty when I’m staying home because it means someone is having to work harder for me at work and I feel guilty when I’m at work because I know that Holly wants more than anything for me to be there, even if it is just while she’s sleeping, just for her peace of mind.I’m torn between the two.”
Mr Howe has set up a GoFundMe page in the hopes of raising $25,000 so he could take six months leave from his job as a Coles Dairy section manager. This would allow him to spend precious time with his wife in the difficult months to come.
“I can only say better to have the time now than regret what I never wish to face,” Mr Howe said on the page.
“In advance I want to thank everyone that is able to contribute towards me getting any time that I can cover with these funds. If all funds are raised I can take at least 6 unforgettable months.
“Time is priceless – memories are forever – never live in regret.”
Mr Howe said they had no special plans of what they would do with the time if he was able to fund a leave of absence from work, except be together – although a holiday to South Africa, where Ms Howe spent a marine science internship, would be a dream come true.
“It’s just so we could spend the time together, not even do anything, just to have the time to be with each other and share laughter and try to create memories,” he said.
Ms Howe admitted her quality of life was low at the moment, with fatigue hitting her hard and limiting what she was able to do and her prognosis was not looking good, given complications kept cropping up.
“It’s definitely a struggle. I have no energy, I spend most of my time in bed. I don’t really get out and about its pretty tough,” she said.
“Steve started the GoFundMe page because I think he’s just starting to get really worried that this isn’t going to work and that he’s going to spend the last time that we have together working, while I’m spending that last time at home alone in bed. He wants to spend time with me just in case it doesn’t work, just because everything seems to be (going wrong).
“We made the decision that we would try at least one non-PBS drug, if (the current chemotherapy) doesn’t work. We’d give it three months and if it wasn’t working then we would give it up because I don’t want to leave everyone broke, there’s no point in me going out and having the last few months of my life being miserable because I am on some form of chemo that’s making me feel terrible and I’ve made everyone broke at the same time.
“We’d give it three months and if it’s not working then we’d call it quits and just try to live life to the fullest while I still have time.”
The Howe’s story appears to have struck a chord, with nearly $5000 raised in just the first day of going public.
If you’d like to help the Howes, go to their GoFundMe page.