If it wasn’t for Sian-Tae contracting COVID, the doctors would not have found the cancer until it was far too late.
Durban, South Africa (17 October 2020) – A community have collectively raised almost R100 000 to help Sian-Tae Metzler – a 24-year-old mother who was diagnosed with a cancer, after testing positive for COVID-19.
Sian-Tae Metzler gave birth to her son Eli in February 2015. Her final week of pregnancy was extremely difficult; she couldn’t move her limbs and struggled to walk. After a full evaluation, doctors diagnosed Sian-Tae with Guillan-Barré syndrome (GBS), a condition in which the immune system attacks the nervous system. This is not something that any new mother wants to hear the night after she has given birth.
Sian-Tae remained in the hospital for the first 2 months of her son’s life, including a full month in ICU, as GBS ravaged her body. Paralysed and fed through a tube, she was terrified, believing that she would die having never held her baby.
She fought bravely for the chance.
When the worst was behind her, Sian-Tae was moved out of ICU and was able to have an emotional reunion with her son. However, she would spend almost 4 months in hospital and rehabilitation before being able to go home to her family and begin bonding with her son in earnest. Having gradually regained feeling and movement, Sian-Tae was able to make the most of her time with Eli.
Then, in July 2020, when Eli was 5, Sian-Tae fell ill with flu-like symptoms. A COVID-19 test came back negative, and two courses of antibiotics did not affect. However, x-rays of her chest showed fluid on her lungs.
She was admitted to hospital, where a second COVID-19 test returned a positive result. The doctors hesitated to drain the fluid from her lungs while she was Covid-positive, believing that it could cause complications. Sian-Tae was treated with steroids for a few days and slowly began to improve. The doctors were amazed that she had survived COVID.
Sian-Tae was sent home to continue recovering. Once she had tested negative for COVID, she was readmitted, and more than two litres of fluid was drained from her lungs. The doctors also used an internal camera to assess her.
It was then that they discovered lesions on her heart and lungs. If it wasn’t for Sian-Tae contracting COVID, the doctors would not have made this discovery until it was far too late.
Biopsies confirmed that Sian-Tae had T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, a very rare and aggressive type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Further tests and a bone marrow biopsy returned conflicting results. It was determined that Sian-Tae had acute myeloid leukaemia, caused by an extremely rare genetic mutation (PICALM-MLLT10). Her family was told that only 6–8 people in the whole world suffer from this combination each year.
Sian-Tae immediately began 5 days of low-dose chemotherapy, and after a week of recovery was allowed to go home for 4 days. She then had to return for a gruelling week-long chemotherapy plan. On some days she endured chemo for 10 hours straight. After this followed 3-weeks of isolation and recovery, in which Sian-Tae was alone and extremely sick; only the thought of holding her son and seeing her family again kept her going.
When the doctors were satisfied with Sian-Tae’s blood results, they allowed her to go home. Her return to Eli and her family was extremely emotional for everyone. She is currently at home for a precious 2 weeks. She will then have to repeat the month-long cycle of intense chemo and recovery.
The goal is to put Sian-Tae into remission, after which she will need a bone marrow transplant. The transplant will take place under the care of a specialist in Pretoria who is an expert in rare leukaemia patient transplants.
Bone marrow matches are very difficult to find. When the time comes, Sian-Tae’s family hopes to rally fellow South Africans to get tested to find out whether they might be a match.
A Backabuddy was set up to raise funds for the mom.
“In the meantime, the family needs funds to cover Sian-Tae and Eli’s living expenses as Sian-Tae will be unable to work for a full year. Even a small donation can assist with Eli’s school fees. In the near future, there will also be enormous medical bills for the family to pay.
As of October 12, the expenses have already mounted beyond what the family had expected. We have raised our goal in the hope that we can make a big difference.
Sian-Tae is only 24. She has fought harder and longer than most at her young age. She is an exceptional mother to a wonderful little boy.”
And a community are rallying together to help Sian-Tae live a full life and be there to watch her beloved Eli grow up.