In the first weeks of 2017, adored Sydney woman Leila Simpkins was told her battle against stage four cancer had hit a hurdle, and without treatment she had just weeks to live.
Ongoing treatment and different rounds of chemotherapy failed to rid the 29-year-old of the rare neuroendocrine tumour on her thymus gland that had plagued her body for 18-months.
With conventional methods of treatment all but exhausted and her cancer aggressively spreading to her lungs, ovaries, liver and most alarmingly, her bones, Leila’s options seemed numbered.
“I don’t want to die, nobody ever does,” Leila said.
“I have spent the last month and a bit in hospital, I missed New Years', I missed Australia Day, I missed feeling like a young woman.”
After trialling a drug called Everolimus in recent months, friends and family were left devastated when Leila announced that the latest bout of chemotherapy had failed her once more.
With little time to waste, the Blue Mountains woman turned to Keytruda, a form of chemotherapy used to treat melanomas – meaning it is not covered by Medicare or private health insurance.
"When I say this, I am not sugar coating the situation. If this drug is not funded, if it doesn't work, I will have months, maybe even just weeks to live," Leila added.
Described by her best friend and sister as “too independent for her own good” Leila’s race against time forced her to put pride aside and let long-time mate Anna Wainscott finally create the fundraising page she had been begging to make for 18-months to help counter all the burdening costs.
“She never wanted anyone’s charity,” Ms Wainscott told 7 News online.
“Most of the time it’s hard enough to buy her a beer at the pub, she would never ask for anything.”
“The past 18 months have been an infuriating cycle of wanting to help but not knowing how to get around Leila's insistence that she doesn't want or need help, even from those closest to her."
On Monday the page went online, by Tuesday more than $7000 had been donated and by Friday afternoon they had reached $15,000.
“I was just blown away … young people generally don’t have a lot of cash to part with,” Ms Wainscott added.
“It just shows how many people love and care about her.”
Leila didn't look at the page until Tuesday and was left in disbelief when she saw the level of support she had received.
"I am crying reading this this today. My beautiful friends have set up a crowd funding campaign for me to help me out to pay for clinical trial drugs to fight my battle," she wrote on Facebook.
"I have tried to keep my situation close to my chest as I am not after sympathy, but it has got to the point that where I am struggling to pay rent, groceries, not to mention the $7,000 for the drugs.
— Help Leila (@HelpLeila) August 15, 2016
Sister and nursing student Tegan Simpkins said the effects of the new treatment, that was set to cost her sister $30,000, remained to be seen.
"The doctors told her that if she doesn’t receive any treatment, she would have at best three-months and at worst three-weeks and that was just one week ago," Tegan said.
"Just because something works for one [form of cancer] doesn’t mean it’s going to work for the other.
Originally from the Blue Mountains, the pair have since relocated to Newtown together, where despite her illness and spending most her time in hospital, Leila insists on still paying rent.
"She's beyond independent, she'd never ask for a handout, but it got to the point we said 'enough is enough', she needs help," her younger sister added.
To donate towards Leila's cancer treatments, head to Help Leila fight cancer
— Help Leila (@HelpLeila) December 25, 2016