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Loving mother of five, 33-year-old Felicity Plew and her husband Simon’s world came crashing down when she was diagnosed with stage four glioblastoma, an aggressive and currently incurable brain cancer.

Living in a remote town out of Darwin called Nhulunbuy, Felicity was forced to fly to Adelaide to undergo lifesaving open brain surgery to remove the tumour and receive ongoing treatment. Fortunately she and her family were able to find solace in The Hospital Research Foundation’s (THRF) Under Our Roof homes during a difficult and traumatic time.

“When I was around 23 weeks pregnant with my fifth child I noticed that my speech was going funny, I was finding it really hard to talk normally and I was having severe headaches. Everyone just thought it was baby brain,” Felicity said.

It was only a few weeks later that Felicity’s doctor noticed a lump on her breast and referred her to have further tests in Darwin, it was decided at the same time she would have an MRI.

“The lump in my breast turned out to be nothing, but after I had the MRI I knew something was wrong. The doctor told me they had discovered a 5.5 centimetre brain tumour. I was cast as critically unwell at that point.

“I was told my baby needed to be born immediately as I could have a seizure at any point. They couldn’t do the operation in Darwin so I had to fly to Adelaide or Sydney.

“It was the middle of the night when I flew into Adelaide. My son, who we called Jesse, had to be born first at 33 weeks old and then I had to wait a couple of weeks until I was stable enough to have surgery to remove the tumour. At this stage I didn’t have a proper diagnosis yet, it was just awful.”

Felicity had to call her husband Simon from Darwin to give him the news she was heading to Adelaide for an operation. Determined to be by his wife’s side, Simon packed up his and their four other children’s belongings and made the journey to Adelaide.

“A few weeks after Jesse was born, I had the operation to remove the tumour. After the surgery I was told I had a stage 4 glioblastoma, which is an aggressive type of brain cancer and it’s incurable. It was horrendous getting told this. You never ever think you’ll get that type of news,” Felicity said.

“They told me my brain tumour had grown to 7cm in size, and they were only able to remove 80 per cent of it because the rest couldn’t be removed without damaging my brain.

“I was in hospital for seven week. During that time, Simon and our children were staying in a caravan park.”

The caravan park was only the first of four different accommodations that Simon, Felicity and the children stayed in. Luckily, their fifth accommodation turned out to be THRF’s Under Our Roof Bendigo Bank house which provided a much-needed family-style sanctuary for the young family.

“Staying in the caravan park was actually very expensive and we began to worry about our financial situation.

“The Under Our Roof Bendigo Bank home was the fifth place our family had stayed in since my diagnosis in Mid-May. When we moved to the home I was worried it was going to be another stress, another place to move to, but as soon as I arrived I realised I was worried for nothing.

“The Under Our Roof home is truly designed with a large family like mine in mind. When we moved here we were extremely surprised how different it is to other family style accommodation for country cancer patients. It’s like the house just keeps on going, there’s plenty of room for the kids to have their own space and a great backyard for them.

“Having two lounge areas was also really helpful when I had specialist appointments so the family could be in one area and myself the other. Before we were on top of each other and that was only adding to the stress of the situation.”

These two family-sized homes in Woodville West were only made possible thanks to the riders, support crew and volunteers who take part in Mercer SuperCycle, an annual seven-day bike ride through regional South Australia that raises vital funds for THRF’s Under Our Roof project. The fundraising event saw the completion of the Woodville West homes in 2015, and has now just made it possible for THRF to purchase a second Under Our Roof project – this time an apartment in Bowden. In 2018 Mercer SuperCycle will travel from Melbourne to Adelaide via the scenic Great Ocean Road.

For Felicity the Under Our Roof home could not have come at a better time for her and her beloved family.

“We’re so grateful to have had the opportunity to stay in this wonderful home designed specifically with families in mind. They truly took away some of the stress in what has been such a difficult time for our family.”

Please donate today to provide a home away from home for families like Felicity’s. 

provide a home away from home for families like Felicity's

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