Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Faith and hope: helping Erik heal in fight with cancer

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Nasreen Morgan with her husband Erik Morgan and their daughters. Photo supplied
  • By Farida Master

Shelly Park local Nasreen Morgan’s day begins with a belief in her heart and a prayer on her lips. She is not ready to give up on her husband Erik as they’ve courageously taken on a relentless fight with cancer to heal Erik, the love of her life and the father of her young daughters. A moving account of their battle to overcome the debilitating disease underlined with resilience, courage, and faith in God’s love and power.

He’s been called a miracle case by his doctors.

Erik Morgan’s journey with cancer has spanned over 16 years.  A civil engineer by profession, his battle began in 2008 in Colorado in the US when he fainted during a run, leading to emergency surgery revealing a tennis ball-sized mass in his brain. Despite multiple surgeries and treatments, Erik and Nasreen tied the knot and have built a beautiful life together.

“We waited to have kids as Erik rebuilt his life and retrained as a Civil Engineer,” says Nasreen, who first met Erik through a common friend at a Christian camp in the US when she was doing an Advance Biblical course. Soon after Erik moved to New Zealand to be with the vivacious lady he’d lost his heart to.

“Erik got a great job upon graduating and we enjoyed doing lots of outdoor activities like hiking, stand-up paddling, surfing and Erik even did a lot of snowboarding and heliboarding in New Zealand.

“He is an active man, and a loving husband who has made me a better woman and wife along the years. He was very supportive of my career and we both did well in our professions, and we grew in our faith for God,” she says.

The couple had their first daughter in 2018 and named her named her Cyra after King Cyrus the Great.

“We enjoyed being parents. Erik was supportive and would stay up in the night even when he had work, the next day.”

Nasreen took on a part-time Change Management consulting job when Cyra was a year and a half. In 2021 when they decided to have their second baby, they were in for a rude shock.

“While I was pregnant with Brianna, the annual MRI scan showed some kind of abnormal cells. We started monitoring him closely with scans every three months. Erik seemed a bit more tired and started drooling from his right side of his face. The scan after Brianna was born showed that the tumour was back.”

Erik was administered a chemotherapy drug that he could take at home without any adverse effects. He was on the drug for six months during which time Nasreen took on a part-time job to sustain them financially, whilst her parents Rustom and Fidelia Dubash helped with the kids.

“In May of 2022 Erik had a seizure at Cyra’s swimming pool that needed the ambulance and a visit to the emergency department. After this seizure Erik couldn’t use his right hand and the tumour had well and truly spread.”

The drug was no longer effective.

Within a week Erik was undergoing intensive radiation therapy followed directly by a five-month IV Chemotherapy and Avastin protocol.

“This six-month period was the hardest one. Erik had many seizures at home, which the kids witnessed. They went from seeing a strong and happy father to someone who couldn’t even give them a hug at times without vomiting.

“The doctors weren’t sure if Erik could handle the 10 rounds of chemotherapy, but he did it! He finished his complete treatment and the scans showed that Erik was now in remission.

“We celebrated. We were so thankful that God had come through for us once again. We used all our insurance cover and with the help of our immediate family were able to pay for all these treatments (e.g. $20,000 for Avastin was not government funded or paid by Insurance).”

A question Nasreen wrestles with considering so many cancer drugs are not funded by government or covered by insurance.

However, they were grateful that Erik’s hand was gaining strength. He had started running and doing a few more hours at work.

The journey with cancer is often embedded with dramatic ups and downs. Just when they thought the storm had passed, life threw another curved ball.

“In May of 2023, I noticed Erik was limping and he thought his leg was sore from running. After a scan, we were told the tumour was back and were given a three-month prognosis.

“Though after additional tests we were informed that it was damage from radiation therapy. Necrosis was taking place in Erik’s brain that was destroying the good brain tissue. He lost all functionality in his entire right arm and his right leg continued to deteriorate with Erik not being able to walk without a stick.

“Erik’s ability to retain information started declining as the necrosis spreads.

“None of the physiotherapy, chiropractic care and extra support he needed to help with this disability was or is funded by the government. We have done hyperbaric oxygen therapy, naturopathic care, and other treatments to support the slowing down of this necrosis in his brain.

“This has costed us in total more than $50,000 this year alone.”

Sadly, in January, 2024, the scan showed the tumour was back. They were informed treatment would cost $32,000 a month.

“In total, we need to pay for four months and the government alongside our insurance provider will cover the other 20 months (two-year treatment plan).

“The catch, we need to pay the two months of the first year, before the government will pay. This treatment also needs to start soon, for it to work as if the cells get too aggressive this drug might not work.”

Nasreen says she’s had to do the hardest thing, yet. Be vulnerable and asks others for help.

“We are unable to afford $64,000 for the first two months after the expenses, we have had over the last three years.

“We sold our only home last year but still haven’t received the finances from that sale as the buyers need to sell their property. We’ve toyed with the idea of me leaving work and taking care of Erik and the kids full time – however work thus far has helped me mentally cope with this all.

“For a few hours a day it makes my life feel a bit more normal. We also want to impart a great resilient work ethic to our children.”

Even as Nasreen has seen pain, fear and struggled with seeing her husband suffer, she is grateful for the unstinted support from family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers that have contributed to their wellbeing in small ways and big. As they say, it takes a village ….

“Since launching the Givealittle page, we have been taken aback by the community’s support as we’ve raised $65,970 of the $223,000 goal to get Erik the drug and support him through this with the treatment from Hope4cancer in the US.”

Quick, get your movie tickets!

A fun movie night is being hosted on Friday, May 17, 7.30pm at Monterey Cinema to raise funds to support Erik’s treatment. If you would like to buy tickets to the sellout action/comedy movie The Fall Guy, starring Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt, call Bini at 029 836 2951.

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