Everyone gets pimples now and then. It's just a part of life. Generally they go away on their own, but sometimes they can be a little more finicky. For 21-year-old New Zealand teacher Emily Foreman, what she thought was a run-of-the-mill pimple ended up changing the course of her life forever.
After a few months of the pesky pimple-like bump behind her ear, Foreman went to the doctor to get it looked at. A series of scans gave her the tragic diagnosis of a cancer tumor, called a large cell undifferentiated carcinoma, in her main salivary gland. It had also spread to some of Foreman's surrounding lymphnodes. The young woman underwent a six-hour surgery to try and remove the cancer.
"This was to remove the entirety of my parotid gland, as well as most of the lymph nodes and some of the surrounding tissue in my neck," Foreman explained on her Give A Little donation page, which is similar to GoFundMe. "To ensure that they had removed all of the cancer they needed to take some of my main facial nerve, unfortunately this left the right side of my face paralysed."
Foreman then underwent six weeks of radiation, and after a while she was finally able to get back to her regular life. She was working full time and trying to plan out her future, but a routine check up left her devastated once again.
"In the CT scan they had discovered multiple lesions across both my lungs; meaning the cancer had spread," she recalled. "There was always that chance of the cancer coming back, but never in a million years did I expect this, or for it to happen so soon. This changed everything. I was then put under one of the best oncologist's and we were thrown straight into coming up with our next plan of attack. Because the lesions were so small and spread across both my lungs surgery wasn't an option, we were also unable to do radiation as this would damage my lungs too much."
So what was her next option? Foreman's doctor decided the best course of action was to monitor the lesions to see if there were any changes. If they began to change, then she would have to undergo chemotherapy. The lesions didn't appear to be changing, which meant that Foreman's immune system was fighting hard to keep the cancer at bay.
"After much consideration, [the doctor] decided to offer me immunotherapy, believing that this would have better results than the chemotherapy would," Foreman shared. "Immunotherapy works in conjunction with and helps to support the immune system to find and target cancer cells. But for me to be able to have this immunotherapy and for it to work I needed to have a high enough level of a certain protein within my cancer cells. After some testing we were fortunate and so grateful to find out that this is going to be an option for me and probably my best option."
The issue, though, is that this treatment is extremely expensive and not covered under New Zealand healthcare.
"Each treatment is done every three weeks down in Palmerston North at a cost of $6,000 and it is capped at 10 treatments," wrote on her Give A Little page. "This means that we only have to pay for the first 10 treatments; that still leaves it costing around $60,000. Then every treatment after the 10th one we only have to pay the administration fee which is still around $700 every time. All in all this is going to be a rather costly experience."
This treatment could last for years if it's deemed effective, which means Foreman will be struggling with these costs for the foreseeable future. However, she notes that this isn't a cure by any stretch.
"Now the immunotherapy is not a cure, and will not cure me; currently there is no cure," Foreman pointed out. "But it should be able to prevent the lesions from growing and keep them at bay for as long as possible. Medicine is changing all the time and I am hopeful that one day there will be a cure but currently this is my best chance at keeping the cancer at bay until that cure is found."
I can't imagine thinking something is just a pimple, then receiving life-changing news like this. Foreman seems to have a good head on her shoulders, and she has already raised over $50,000 on her fundraising page.
Her story is an important reminder to be vigilant when it comes to growths, bumps, or anything else unusual you notice about your body.
Emily, 21, died IN January 2020 after a two-year battle with cancer. Her funeral was held in her hometown of Inglewood, a town in the Taranaki Region of New Zealand's North Island. The family has praised every medical professional they dealt with, saying each one had tried to give Emily the best quality of life.