LOVE WORTH FIGHTING FOR: Shock diagnosis reunites sisters
It had been years since Lyla Edwards had spoken to her sister, but as she drove along the Cunningham Highway she felt compelled to pull over, turn off the engine and pick up her phone.
She had a long battle ahead of her, and she didn't want to face it alone.
Lyla was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cervical cancer at Warwick Hospital the day before, and it had spread to her lymph nodes, leaving her with just 60 per cent chance of survival.
Her kidneys ached, her energy was gone, and as a single mother she struggled to juggle work, homeschooling and an ever-growing pile of bills on the kitchen counter.
"I needed my family," she said.
"It's all I've got left."
Lyla moved to Goomburra many years ago in search of her own tree-change, a quiet space where she could raise her children and cultivate a hobby farm, away from the horrors of her past.
The murder of her father, when she was just nine-years-old, changed the fabric of her family forever.
According to her younger sister, Lesleigh Dragomirovic, the "horrible upbringing ripped the entire family apart", and when their mother, Lula, eventually passed, the two simply stopped speaking.
"Everything has always been so strained with our family," Lesleigh said.
"But when the going gets tough, (Lyla) always comes to me, and I fix it.
Lesleigh drew a deep breath, fighting back the tears.
"But I can't fix this."
Lesleigh lives hundreds of kilometres away, across the New South Wales border, with her own family. She said she never liked to cry in front of Lyla, "because she needs someone strong", but the thought of losing her sister to cancer was too much to bear.
"Regardless of what has happened between us, she's my sister, and we will always have each other," Lesleigh said.
"The first thing I said to her is that a 60 per cent chance is good - It's better than 10 per cent, it's better than 20 per cent, and we can do this!
"She mentioned her hair, and I said no worries, we'd shave our hair off together."
The bigger problem, however, is receiving the proper cancer treatment. Lyla needs an intensive six weeks of both chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which is only on offer through the public system in Brisbane.
Given her inability to keep running her cleaning business, the special needs of her six-year-old son, and the upkeep of the farm, Lyla said she couldn't figure out a way to make it happen.
"I can't pay for a hotel, pay for travel, run a farm, homeschool, keep my business going and get treatment at the same time," she said.
"I just can't, I have no idea how I'm supposed to do that.
"My pelvis will be weakened, my bones will be weakened, and the doctors tell me it will be 12 months before I feel normal again."
The alternative is paying for private treatment at a hospital in Toowoomba, which is expensive.
The family are looking into options, but in the meantime, they are glad to have each other. Lesleigh is preparing her home to put on the market, in hopes she can eventually relocate to the Southern Downs.
"The border closures are a major issue, and it's awful because I feel so far away," Lesleigh said.
"She's in for the fight of her life, and it's going to be tough, but I can't imagine those boys being without their mum.
"I have to do something."
In a desperate attempt to help what feels like an impossible situation, Lesleigh has set up a GoFundMe for her sister, in hopes of raising enough money for cancer treatment closer to home.
"If I can't be there in person, at least I've tried to do something from the sidelines."
For more information, visit www.gofundme.com/f/uhhfw6-saving-lyla