Tracy was 44 years old when she was diagnosed and her daughter Taya was only 6. She is wife to Mike, mother to Taya, sister to Sharon and Clare, Aunt to Jason, Bradley, Josh and Kayla, daughter to Norma and friend to many. These however, are just titles, and for anyone who knows Tracy she is so much more than can be expressed in names or words.
She is the person in your life that you can always count on, who will always be there for you, no matter what. She is the one you can laugh with and cry with. She is loving, selfless, committed, considerate, caring, fun, dedicated, hard-working and is the best mum in the world to her daughter Taya.
Ever since she was a little girl she always knew she wanted to be a mum. It took a while for her dream to come true, and even though she wasn’t able to have any more children, she never gave up. She loves being a mum more than anything in the world and cherishes every moment she spends with Taya - they do everything together.
She is also incredibly talented, however, as with so many creative people, she lacks the self-belief in her own potential. Anyone who has seen her abstract artwork or her face painting will know this only too well. She’ll whip something incredible up like it was nothing at all, while we all sit back and gasp "How did she do that?".
She has also been an incredible sportswoman in her time - one of the few female raft guides on the Zambezi, Tully and Buller Rivers, a kayaker of incredible strength and a Gold medallist for Australia at the Sea Kayaking World Cup in 1998. She also won 3 Gold, 2 Silver and 1 Bronze medal in the New Zealand Surf Life Saving Champs.
A quiet achiever in everything she puts her mind to, she can now unfortunately add Advanced Metastatic Breast Cancer warrior to her resume. Apparently cancer cannot be avoided by being an awesome person.
Tracy is now 47 and has been fighting her battle against advanced metastatic breast cancer for 3 years. She recently reached the milestone of seeing her daughter turn 9:-) Her original goal she set herself right in the beginning was to watch her little girl turn 8 , a goal we weren't really sure could/would happen. Thanks to all of the support Tracy has received, she has been able to channel all of her time, strength and energy into winning the battle so far. Without it, I honestly don't think it would have been possible. It's hard to put into words what that means, to us as a family, and especially to Mike, Tracy and Taya. 3 years is a BIG deal in a little girl's life and, despite the fact that there has been a lot of time and energy spent figthting the battle, there have also been so many memories created. Memories that will stand the test of time and forever hold a special place in our hearts.
The new big goal is for Tracy to see Taya turn double digit's. Something most of us take for granted. We will set and celebrate many goals in between but that is the 'dream big' goal. I believe that, with the support of her army, her incredible medical team and, most significantly, her indomitable spirit it is possible. Thank you for being a part of making it happen.
You can watch a video of Tracy's story here
Funds For Tracy
Our Extended Target is $150,000!
Two years ago we set ourselves a target of $100 000. We thought that was a pretty ambitious goal but amazingly we met and surpassed it within a year! People have offered more support than we could have imagined, friends both old and new, friends of friends, businesses and even employers. We set ourselves this target by looking at a combination of lost income and medical costs based on what we knew then, along with what we could foresee for Tracy to progress along her first year of treatment. In 2016 we have now extended that target to $150 000. This extended target is looking at what we can predict Tracy would need to get her to Taya's 10th birthday. Making it to Taya's 8th birthday was a pretty big goal of Tracy's in the early days. 8 is a big development milestone in a child's life. Now we have our sights set on double digits:-) another big milestone.
Loss of Income
Tracy has lost her income from the moment she was diagnosed. Trurthfully she was so sick she was barely able to function towards the end of working but somehow she pushed herself. Once she was diagnosed and started treatment she hit a wall and collapsed in complete and utter exhaustion. Since then she has been on constant treament and always will be. This is one of the big differences with a terminal diagnosis, she will never be in remission and her treatment requires an almost full time commitment. Her treatment will never be over and the cancer as well as the treatment side effects means that she is frequently unwell, nauseous, in pain, exhausted, or all of them together. They cannot make ends meet without her income, let alone cover medical costs.
Tracy being Tracy is always trying to dream up ways to find a way to contribute financially that could be flexible enough for her to do. Over the last few momths she has spent any spare energy she has learning how to teach piano to children however as this tended to take up her afternoon when she is more tired, she had to let this venture fall by the waist side. After a bit more dreaming, Tracy decided the best way to use her skills and manage her pain would be to train up as a swimming Instructor. This all started in 2016 and her background in early childhood combined her love for water have found her working for a very supportive swim school (Aquabliss). She feels very lucky to find such a great organisation to work for. Above all, Tracy is happy to be both making a difference and bringing in some much needed income again. She has a wonderful way with children.
Medical update and costs
In the early days we knew very little about what medical costs Tracy would incur. We weren't even sure what surgeries Tracy would have and how they would go. Fortunately her major back surgery to stabilise 5 levels of her spine via spinal fusion was successful. There were a few complications but this surgery saved Tracy from certain paralysis. As her neurosurgeon said, she was a ticking time bomb, and you did not need to be a neurosurgeon to look at her scan and see that the fractured piece of her spine only had one place to go, her spinal cord! That was a scary moment as was the two week wait to 'diffuse the bomb'!
Her cancer has also responded to treatment better than excpected. Her second chemo drug took her to brink, and after frequent hospitalisations, she had to change line of treatment before it killed her along with the cancer. The great thing about having breast cancer as your primary (yes there is something great about it:-), is that there are lots of lines of treatments, or stepping stones in the pond as we like to call them, if you need to jump there's a whole lot of stones to choose from. Since then, Tracy has been on a hormone based line of treatment. This has been very effective but as of November 2016 her tumour markers are on the rise again so a jump to another stepping stone is on the cards but... at least there are a lot to choose from. Her oncologist mentioned that a clinical trial drug would be available to try out, as long as she had some progression shown on the scans. So as of December 2016 Tracy has been on a new clinical trial drug. She had a rocky start on the drug with bad episodes of pain and high fevers, but has managed to settle down and stabilize once again. Of course we never know when the 'boat' will get rocked again and we know things can change very quickly, but for now we will take the better days while we can and appreciate medical research, because if it weren't for this clinical trial Tracy would be back on chemo again.
What has the money raised to date been spent on?
In the first year Tracy's costs mounted pretty quickly. I remember we calculated she spent $4000 in the first month and the bills just kept on coming. Her medications cost over $650 per month, she was having scans monthly and seemingly constant blood tests. She had her port (aka Fred) installed and then came her surgery and 6 month long rehabilitation first as an in-patient and then out-patient.
Being on a single income, they were well underwater financially by the time we did the fundraised in June 2014. The incredible sucess of the Gala dinner not only put them back on top, but sustained them for the 18 months that followed. It covered all of Tracy's medical expenses, paid household bills, Taya's extra curricular activities and compensated for Tracy's lost income. It also meant they did not have to move from their 2 bedroom unit. This a big deal both for Tracy and for Taya. Taya is so well settled into her school and the whole family settled in their surroundings with so much local support. When life is throwing enough major challenges at you, it is hard to put a price on how much comfort your surroundings can bring, especially when you spend a lot of time house bound! Their unit is nothing fancy but it is the place they call home and it represents stability to all of them.
One of the other major expenses paid for by the fundraiser was Tracy's bed. After her back surgery she continued to be in significant pain and still is to date. As successful as this surgery was, she still has cancer riddled through her spine and ribs, as well as having had one of the major spinal nerves sacrificed during the surgery out of necessity. Essentially this means she experiences pain similar to having a permanently broken back and ribs, as well as the neuropathy associated with the nerve issues. We understood rest was a key compoment to her survivial and that meant a new bed was not optional. We never could have estimated the number of hours Tracy would spend in that bed, or how much of a difference it would make to her comfort level. It took a LOT of convincing to get Tracy to spend the money on it. 18 months later I can tell you there is not a day that goes by where she doesn't thank you all that she could and did. It can move into different positions to relieve pain and pressure when she just can't get comfortable and whenever she is in hospital she just wants to get discharged asap so she can get back to her bed, because the rest she can get in it far surpasses any hospital bed. She is incredibly grateful for it every single day and I truly believe it has made an incredible difference.
What will the future money raised be spent on?
Our future target is to raise another $50 000 to sustain Tracy for another two years. With a few major expenses behind them, and a laser sharp focus on budgetting, we are hoping that even though our target extends by half of our original target, we will be able to stretch it further. Some of Tracy's current ongoing medical costs are:
Medication - $400 per month (we were able to work with her oncologist to adjust dispensing quantities per script and so stabilise this expense despite the increase in tablets.)
Scans - $2000 for a full set (now required every three months, or more frequently if need arises)
The average monthly gap to cover Tracy's medical costs is over $1,650.
Tracy on the River
Tracy first began kayaking in 1994 and quickly became an integral part of the Safari Par Excellence team on the Zambezi River in her homeland of Zimbabwe. She started raft guiding and, soon after, was one of the only team members that could safety kayak or raft guide on any given day. Tracy found a true passion for the river and, in particular, for white water. It appealed to her sense of adventure, her physical strength and her desire to be challenged on all levels. Anyone who has ever had a day on the river with Tracy will, no doubt, consider it as one of the most memorable days of their lives. It’s exhilarating, but you always knew she had your safety in her hands and that she was in control.
After three years on the Zambezi Tracy moved to Australia, where the Tully River became her playground. Tracy settled into the team at Raging Thunder where she made a name for herself as the Zimbabwean girl with a bullet proof roll that could handle herself in any waters and was always goofing around for the trip video.
Tracy also took up sea kayaking whilst living in Mission Beach and travelled to Papau New Guinea as part of the Australian team, returning home with a Gold medal for Australia in the Sea Kayaking World Cup - an incredible achievement for someone who had only taken up the sport that year.
After a few years of struggling to get permanent residency, Tracy moved to New Zealand where she worked for Rapid River Rafting on the Buller and Gowan rivers before going to Wellington to pursue a dream of getting a degree in Early Childhood. She took up surf life rowing and won 3 Gold, 2 Silver and 1 Bronze medal in the Surf Life Rowing Champs, all while funding her study through working as a personal trainer for Les Mills gym.
She’s always had a love for water and still has her kayaks in the hope of one day getting back out there to let her spirit run free.
The Story Behind the Logo
You may be wondering what that strange half snake/half fish is at the top of the page? Well, it is the Nyami-Nyami and here is the story behind it.
The Nyami-Nyami is a River God believed to live in the waters of the mighty Zambezi River, somewhere between the foot of Victoria Falls and Kariba Dam. It has been described as a giant with a snake‘s torso and the head of a fish. Although the River God is often dismissed as a myth, there are many locals who claim to have seen it.
The Tongan people who live along the Zambezi Valley believe that the Nyami-Nyami will one day bring down Kariba Dam. It is believed he was separated from his wife, a similar snake/fish, when the dam was constructed in the 1950’s and that only destruction of the dam wall will bring them together again.
Whether fact or fiction, rafting guides on the Zambezi River wear the Nyami-Nyami necklace as a display of solidarity in the hope it will protect them from its wrath. They believe that by wearing the Nyami-Nyami they will be offered protection and strength to overcome the raging white water - without it, you may be at the River God’s mercy.
Tracy was a raft guide and kayaker on the Zambezi for 3 years and later guided on the Tully River in Queensland for a further 3 years and the Buller and Gowan Rivers of New Zealand. During her time on the Zambezi, Tracy started wearing a Nyami-Nyami around her neck. Along the river there is a cliff face with a large Nyami-Nyami painted on it, a legacy from a movie once filmed there. Tracy, and many of the other guides, would give their Nyami-Nyami's a kiss and say a quick prayer at this point every day, in order to show respect and appreciation for the River God. When she left the Zambezi she didn’t take it off. She continued to wear her Nyami-Nyami as a source of strength and protection. At a time in her life when she needs this more than ever it seems right that the Nyami-Nyami should be the 4Tracy4Life logo.
Our hope is that cancer is no match for the Nyami-Nyami.