No benefit entitlements while family in Brisbane

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 05:00 21/02/2013

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A young Invercargill mother who is fighting ovarian cancer - overwhelmed by the support of her home community in Southland - says she was forced to move to Brisbane to combat the disease.

Australian surgeons told Tania Dickson that if she had stayed in New Zealand and waited for surgery she might not have had a chance to fight the cancer, she said.

Mrs Dickson, 29, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after surgery at Mater Hospital in Brisbane on January 8.

She was emotional this week as she described hearing about the finances that had poured into her family's account courtesy of fundraising efforts by Southlanders, with more fundraising planned this week.

Recovering from a full hysterectomy in Brisbane, Mrs Dickson said she and her husband, Logan, had to borrow money from their parents to make mortgage and insurance payments after moving to Australia for surgery in December.

Mrs Dickson said she didn't want to uproot her family, but she had been fearful about the lump on her left ovary a medical team in Invercargill had identified in November.

After her Invercargill GP found the lump on November 7 and referred her for an urgent ultrasound - which Mrs Dickson was told would take up to eight weeks if she went public - she paid the $160 to have the ultrasound privately, she said.

The earliest day they could fit her in was November 19 - 12 days after her doctor's appointment, she said.

When a sonographer found the growth, she was told to get it removed quickly and was referred for an operation to remove the large growth. They would not do a biopsy to determine cancer until after it was removed, she said.

Initially told in November her operation would be a priority on the New Zealand public health system, two days later she was told it could be February or March before the operation would be done, she said.

Concerned by the long waiting time, she jumped at a chance to be seen at Mater Hospital in Brisbane where her mother is based.

She said Mater Hospital requested she have a scan and blood tests in Invercargill, which were done on December 3.

Mrs Dickson, her husband, Logan, and 6-year-old daughter, Peyton, left for Australia the next day and biopsy results after the January 8 surgery confirmed her worst fear: she had a rare and aggressive form of ovarian cancer.

Mrs Dickson will begin chemotherapy in a few weeks.

Because she had the treatment in Australia they were not entitled to sickness or carers' benefits in New Zealand and were living on a $277 Winz benefit for four weeks which would not even cover the interest on their mortgage, she said.

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Much of the fundraising in Southland had been spearheaded by her best mate Megan Harper.

Both said the fundraising showed how Southlanders came together to help each other in a crisis.

Commenting on Mrs Dickson's case, Southern District Health Board medical director, surgical directorate Murray Fossbender said the DHB was meeting the national cancer target but Mrs Dickson had not agreed to allow the DHB to discuss her care with The Southland Times, and they were unable to comment on her case.

If an Invercargill patient required an urgent ultrasound it could be done within 48 hours, he said.

If a patient presented with a potentially cancerous tumour of the type described by Mrs Dickson in November, they would have received surgery in December.

Mrs Dickson disputed this.

A garage sale for the Dickson family will be held at the Myross Bush Community Hall on Saturday, from 8am to 11.30am.

Donations to the sale will be taken at the hall on Fridayfrom 3pm.

gwyneth.hyndman@stl.co.nz

- © Fairfax NZ News

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