Surgeon Charlie Teo to help young couple tackle brain cancer
DIEGO Espinosa has three crucial things on his side as he faces a life-and-death battle with brain cancer - a woman who adores him, one of the world's best neurosurgeons, and the kindness of strangers.
"It's been amazing," the 30-year-old said of the support he and wife Sarka had received since launching a desperate campaign to pay for renowned brain surgeon Dr Charlie Teo to perform an operation no one else will attempt.
"It's been a long ride but at least we have an option now. We have hope."
That hope arrived 10 weeks ago when Dr Teo agreed to see the Southport couple at Sydney's Prince of Wales Private Hospital.
Since collapsing at home two years earlier, Diego and his wife had endured a two-year nightmare that saw initial advice to monitor a paretial lesion, the onset of daily seizures and the eventual diagnosis of a Grade 3 tumour.
Brain surgery finally came last November but doctors told the couple they were unable to remove the entire tumour due to the risk of brain damage.
"It was a really, really tough time for us," Sarka said.
"Diego couldn't walk. He can no longer drive or work. You have different feelings - sadness, terror, fear of the future. It's like a rollercoaster but I believe we're in good hands now."
That's because a Gold Coast oncologist recently referred them to Dr Teo, who has told them what so many surgeons can't.
"He said he could remove the rest of the tumour," Diego said.
"Not many people were willing to do the surgery because it is very high-risk … (but) when he saw the case he said 'I've done this many, many times and believe we can do it'.
"The only difficulty is the cost."
Despite having private health insurance, the couple faces out-of-pocket expenses in the tens of thousands and are trying to raise $115,000 for the life-saving operation and Diego's recovery.
Loved ones and strangers have already donated more than $30,000 to a Go Fund Me campaign, while events such as tonight's charity dinner at Broadbeach's Beachside Pavilion are being held.
"We are so grateful (for the support) because Diego is no longer able to work (as a mechanic)," said Czech-born Sarka, who met the Colombian when she moved to the Gold Coast about three years ago.
"Both our families are overseas so we are all we have in Australia."
With the couple marrying last November, Diego's voice faltered when asked what his wife meant to him.
"She's such a wonderful person," he said.
"This (cancer) happened not long after we met and it's very rare where someone would stick with you in that situation. That shows you the calibre of person she is.
"Having Sarka beside me is the reason I'm still battling every day and trying to stay positive."
To support the couple, visit Go Fund Me and search 'Help Diego Fight Brain Cancer'.