Colleen Lavelle is a passionate and effective advocate for Indigenous patients rights within health sector, writing from her own experiences and also by providing an space for other Indigenous people to share their stories online via her blog Proud Black Sista. She has written about a wide number of issues affecting Indigenous people in the health system, including racism, cultural misunderstandings, and the importance of family, culture and identity to healing.
Colleen has a particularly difficult last few years as a victim of Australia's costly medical system. What was originally thought to be oedema (fluid retention), in 2010 Colleen discovered she actually had blood clots which culminated in a pulmonary embolism, significant blood clots that occur in the lungs and in many cases, these clots can be fatal.
Colleen reacted to the plethora of medications she was presribed and suggested, and spent a large portion of 2014 in-and-out of hospital with fractures to my ribs, hips,lower spine and lung problems and auto immune ailments due to the medications reacting to each other. Colleen sadly even underwent surgery on both eyes due to the medications working against each other. It was then, when Colleen discovered that an inoperable brain tumour was causing problems with her sight.
"So I have to wear glasses, lots of glasses for different lighting," she wrote in her GoFundMe page. "But I will get through this with God’s help."
"In 2014 I was in a hospital recovering from a pulmonary embolism. The consequence was not from a bad life style but medications and Chemo gone wrong. I had to face the hurdle of huge medical bills. $1,500 dollars a week on medications this luckily dropped down but its a hard thing to do. Many treatments or tests are not covered by medicare so the expenses keep going up, the cost of rent and food, while money goes down. Its all be hard but has made me a better person, I at least hope I am a better person.
I have been struggling to make ends meet, to raise my kids pay the bills and stay alive. The cost of medication never lets up. I am still often in and out of hospital because of the brain tumour or the other associated problems with my health. I have tried to work, but can't as I get bad headaches and sometimes cannot see properly.
In 2016 Another tumour was found in my jaw. At the time it was a wait and see scenario. Well now the wait is over. I need surgery on my jaw to remove the tumour before it gets too big. Apart from this I have been prescribed a different medication for my brain tumour, but it costs over $300, I don't know how long I will have to take this medication, in fact I don't know how long I will be alive. I am considered terminal. But I want to stay alive to watch my kids grow and to have some grand children," she wrote in her campaign.
Colleen is hoping to raise $20,000 and has so far raised just over $2,000 in the few days that her campaign has been active.