Zoey
Photo Credit: Melissa Da Silva

After a year in remission, Zoey Da Silva’s cancer has returned with a vengeance; her family are rallying to get her specialised treatment to fight this next battle.

 

Johannesburg, South Africa (15 February 2023) – Courageous Zoey Da Silva has relapsed so her family are doing everything in their power, to get her the treatment she needs, to fight off her cancer for a second time.

Zoey was diagnosed on 31 Dec 2020 with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) at the age of 7. Her first set of tests didn’t indicate anything but the second set showed something. Melissa, Zoey’s mom, found herself being referred to the paediatric oncology team at Donald Gordon that same day. Zoey was admitted, and the team started biopsies on her bone marrow and swollen glands. When the diagnosis was given, their world shifted.

Zoey spent the next few weeks undergoing treatment to try and get her cancer into remission. Her medical team spent four weeks doing induction treatments on her marrow which would hopefully bring on remission. Unfortunately, they had to abandon this treatment when her numbers didn’t meet their expectations. The next plan, find a bone marrow match.

“This meant the original ‘plan’ was now derailed as she now needed a bone marrow transplant – even just 0.01% away from remission meant she was at higher risk of relapse even if she did go into full remission after round 2 of treatment. This was the biggest blow we could ever have imagined, particularly since she was doing so well post the first round of treatment – even her doctor was in disbelief when she had initially read the results.

Almost immediately, we had her sister tested for a possible match since siblings have a far higher chance of being a match compared to an unrelated donor. However, unfortunately, she was not a match for Zoey, and she was then added to the bone marrow registry to find an unrelated donor. We were understandably disheartened by the now significantly reduced chance of finding a 100% match but in no way were we giving up.” – Melissa

To prepare for an eventual match, Zoey started chemotherapy and blood transfusions to work towards getting her numbers to zero. As many families do, Melissa started raising awareness about Zoey’s condition and encouraged people to register as bone marrow donors so they could find a match. They launched the Zoey Grace Fund and started sharing updates about Zoey and her progress.

“Our luck was about to change when we received the news on 17 May 2021 that we had not only found a donor match for Zoey, but we had found 7 local matches – all of which were 100%. During a time when COVID was still rife, having a local donor meant costs, delays, and higher potential risks were significantly reduced so this was the best outcome we could have asked for.”

Zoey had her life-changing transplant on the 6th of October, 2021. Her blood cells started looking good, and by the 19th of October, she was declared cancer-free and got to ring the bell at the Donald Gordon Paediatric Oncology Ward. She was doing so well that she was allowed to attend her first day of Grade 3 and reached 100 days post-transplant without too many complications.

Sadly, Zoey’s health has faced a number of challenges since then. From needing blood transfusions last year, to the devastating news that her cancer was back in December 2022. The family have been rattled by the relapse and news that the cancer is back with a vengeance, but they won’t give up hope.

“The cells were initially sitting on 14% of her marrow and we started her on oral chemo immediately. Since the cells were still within a safe enough range but still significant, the chemo was mild and therefore tolerable on her immune system. However, 28 days of it eventually took its toll and she was admitted for an infection and another bone marrow biopsy was done a few days later.

The results of the biopsy revealed that unfortunately the new chemo did not work in eradicating the cells and in fact jumped to 90%. This meant that Zoey was now essentially back to square one and no additional treatment could proceed until we got the cells back down to a ‘safe’ percentage. She was therefore admitted 2 days later for intensive chemo for the next 28 days, fully in hospital – equivalent to the induction protocol she did when she was first diagnosed 2 years ago”

“Considering that her relapse happened over a year post transplant, we are extremely concerned that even if we do proceed with a second, relapse may continue to occur and will become exponentially riskier if it does. We are therefore aiming for the best possible option which is CAR-T Cell Therapy overseas.

This is only done in a handful of countries across the world and comes at a hefty cost – of which medical aid will only fund a very small portion. The most affordable option is performed in Israel at a minimum cost of $100,000 (roughly R1.7M) which is the first goal right now.

We are appealing to ANYONE who would be willing to contribute in any way (monetary or otherwise) to help get our Zo-bear the best possible care she needs and deserves to get back on track and live the rest of her life as healthy, bubbly, and carefree as we all know her.” – Melissa

Zoey has completed her first week of intensive chemo. If you would like to follow her along this next phase in her fight, you can check out the Zoey Grace Fund Facebook page here.

Melissa has set up a BackaBuddy crowdfund which you can donate towards here or you can donate via the Zoey Grace Fund website here.


Sources: Melissa Da Silva – Supplied
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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