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Wendy and Craig Fergusson can refresh their lives after 18 months of lung cancer treatment. Photo: GORDON PREECE

Cancer-free and ready to ‘refresh’ life


When The Profile first spoke with Wendy and Craig Fergusson in February, 2022, they were facing selling their home to cover the cost of an unfunded lung cancer drug. The Waihī couple now has an exciting update. GORDON PREECE reports

Wendy Fergusson has been through “hell” for 18 months. She’s undergone rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy to combat a cancer tumour on her right lung.
Now, the former smoker can claim she is cancer-free after completing her final treatment of Imfinzi in December, 2022.
The Profile first reported on Wendy’s plight back in March last year, and at that time, Imfinzi was unfunded by Pharmac. However, it became funded in August, 2022, for people with locally advanced stage 3, unresectable, non-small cell lung cancer.
“I thought: ‘Thank God for that’ – because they just wouldn’t give me any direction and I didn’t know what future I had because you’re always in limbo,” Wendy said.
“We have a direction now, we can make plans. We didn’t think we had any.”
After her diagnosis in July last year, Wendy underwent continuous chemotherapy and radiation in Hamilton.
“It was hell to be honest, and there was a time at the end of [2021] that I honestly didn’t think I would survive it. There were times I didn’t think I would wake up.”
Wendy said the chemotherapy and radiation shrunk the tumour and her oncologist then suggested immunotherapy to ensure the cancer cells didn’t return.
After initially suggesting an unfunded drug called Keytruda, which would have cost Wendy and Craig $120,000, her oncologist changed her immunotherapy drug to Imfinzi, which is specifically targeted to treat lung cancer.
Also unfunded at the time, the couple faced having to raise more than $200,000 for 12 cycles of Imfinzi which meant they may have to sell their home to pay for it. Wendy said the situation was “horror”.
“They always say lung cancer is a major issue and yet how was someone supposed to come up with that money?
“I talked to a couple of people who had sold their homes to pay for it and there was no absolute guarantee that [Imfinzi] would work. They were now living with their children; they’ve had to reverse their lives because the government made them pay for it.”

Wendy and Craig established a Givealittle page to raise funds for the Imfinzi treatment, but in the meantime learned from her oncologist that Pharmac was considering funding the drug – bringing the total treatment cost down to $46,000.
The funding by Pharmac meant Wendy and Craig no longer had to sell their home.
“It didn’t become public until August but [my doctor] got me on the programme in January [2022]… I was incredibly lucky,” she said.
Wendy had her final Imfinzi treatment on December 2, 2022, and continues to visit her radiologist and oncologist to ensure the cancer was under control.
She thanked her family and neighbours for their support during a “really crap year and a half”, as well as the Givealittle donors – including Alison O’Callaghan who walked the Tongariro Crossing to raise funds for Wendy in April last year after reading her story in The Profile.
Wendy said she and her husband would now focus on refreshing their lives.
“Now it’s time to think of [Craig] – to make his life a little easier because he helped me immensely through it all.
“I may have been through this but he’s been through it in the background and that’s even harder,” she said.