Emma Capell, pictured, has been on a trip around the world after finding a treatment to her rare cancer using Facebook
The moment Sydney woman Emma Capell was told she had a ‘rare and deadly cancer’ which would ‘cave in her face’ before killing her will stay with her forever.
The 51-year-old single mother was told ‘nothing could help her’, so she made a will and was discharged – ‘sent home to die’.
It was a moment of pure, overwhelming shock mingled with a sense of terror knowing she would leave her three children without a mother.
One year and a worldwide holiday later and her future is looking bright – after taking a leap of faith and travelling to America for proton treatment after reading about it online.
‘Facebook saved my life,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
‘That’s where I found out about proton, after connecting with other people from around the world who had the same cancer as me.’
The mother of three – pictured here a month after her diagnosis with her children Katrina, 24, Lucia, 22 and Elliot, 20 – was told she couldn’t be treated in Australia and was terrified she would be dead within 15 months
Ms Capell – pictured here during treatment – found proton radiotherapy treatment and went to America in the hope the technique would extend her life
Ms Capell then went on a trip around the world – travelling to 11 countries
It has now been revealed proton therapy could be available in Australia by 2020, a revelation which gives relief to the mother who, in November last year, thought she ‘had a maximum 15 months’ left with her family.
It is also a relief for Sue Bleasel, a woman who has dedicated 15 years of her life to getting the therapy to Australia.
She told Daily Mail Australia construction of a purpose-built proton therapy centre in Sydney could begin in the near future.
‘We believe the first sod of earth will be turned in the next nine months – if that happens we hope the first patients will be treated by the end of 2019 or early 2020.
Sue Bleasel first introduced proton therapy to Australia 15 years ago and has revealed it could be available by 2020
‘I get calls every week from people in Australia who need the therapy – and my heart really goes out to them. Soon they will be able to have it here,’ she said.
The new centre will be able to cater for 1000 patients, with an average of 25 treatments at full capacity.
Ms Capell has been on a round-the-world trip since her successful seven-week treatment in Baltimore.
Ms Capell with her daughter Lucia, who went to America with her to act as her carer during treatment
Ms Capell was terrified of leaving her children, and made her will the day she was diagnosed with the rare form of brain cancer
‘I wasn’t nervous when I hopped on the plane because I knew it would work,’ she said.
‘I had been in touch with a doctor over there whose life work was to treat people with my cancer, he had seen more than 635 patients and said I had a good prognosis.’
Her daughter Lucia went with her for 11 weeks as her carer.
‘It was a really special time together,’ Ms Capell said – despite the waves of nausea she had from treatment and the double vision the tumour had caused, which will be with her for life.
‘I wasn’t nervous when I hopped on the plane because I knew it would work,’ she said
The mother said her trip around the world was ‘amazing’ – she planned it after finding out treatment would have a high chance of success
Ms Capell was given a government grant for the treatment – so she didn’t have to sell her family home where she has lived with her children for 18 years.
‘I got quotes which ranged from US $70,000 to US $288,000, I picked one somewhere in between and filled out the forms and within weeks it had been approved.
‘I didn’t know there was funding out there but it is important for other people to know it is available so they can get the right treatment as well.’
‘I got quotes which ranged from US $70,000 to US $288,000, I picked one somewhere in between and filled out the forms and within weeks it had been approved,’ she said of an Australian funding grant for the treatment in America
‘I hadn’t put anything on Facebook about my cancer until I knew it was going to be okay, I didn’t want people’s pity,’ she said
The mother went on a holiday, taking 31 flights and visiting 11 countries once she was given the all-clear to travel.
‘I hadn’t put anything on Facebook about my cancer until I knew it was going to be okay, I didn’t want people’s pity,’ she said.
‘So when I finally put something up telling everybody what had happened and that I was planning a trip around the world to see everyone I knew, I was overwhelmed by the response.
‘Everyone was messaging me asking me to come and stay – and they all showed me a good time.
‘That just made me feel like such a lucky girl. I am glad to be home now, though – I think I was away from the kids for too long,’ she said.
The mother now has a 95 percent chance of living cancer-free for 10-15 years.
The New South Wales Minister for Health and Medical Research, Brad Hazzard, said he supports NSW residents with cancer being able to access leading technologies like proton therapy, where these have proven benefits.
‘The role of the private sector in being able to bring these services first to NSW is most welcomed,’ Mr Hazzard said.
The mother with her radiation mask on – she had it painted so it would have some personality
Proton Therapy Australia’s Medical Director, Dr Martin Berry, said radiation therapy was currently undergoing a revolution in its role in cancer care because technology can now deliver radiation treatment with extreme precision.
‘Proton therapy is a fundamental part of this revolution. Protons have a unique physical property that enables delivery of a maximum radiation dose at a precise depth in tissue.
‘This characteristic, coupled with a technique known as spot scanning allows maximal lethal impact on the tumour whilst sparing nearby healthy tissue and critical organs. We know that in many cases precision radiotherapy can replace invasive surgery,’ he said.
The mother posing with her bags during her whirlwind trip