Ashley Mackinnon, of Wilsons Creek, and his son Alec, 10, with Leah Chapman’s ashes, discuss their tragic loss and ongoing financial burdens.
Ashley Mackinnon, of Wilsons Creek, and his son Alec, 10, with Leah Chapman’s ashes, discuss their tragic loss and ongoing financial burdens. David Nielsen

Family struggles with medical debt

ASHLEY MACKINNON lost his wife, Leah Chapman, to cancer in 2006, now the father of two looks like he will also lose the family’s Wilsons Creek home.

Ms Chapman, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, was forced to travel overseas to treat metastasised brain tumours with breakthrough CyberKnife technology.

The treatment cost $150,000.

Ms Chapman died five months later, not from cancer, but from damage to her liver caused by chemotherapy treatments for the disease. The CyberKnife treatment appeared to be working.

Her husband and children, Rebecca, 16, and Alec, 10, have not only had to deal with their grief but the stress of trying to pay for Leah’s treatment, which involved two trips to the US.

Since his wife’s death Mr Mackinnon has fallen behind with credit card repayments and the mortgage.

As a sole parent he survives on Newstart Allowance and part-time work.

Last year, when the bank threatened to foreclose on his mortgage, he was forced to switch to a high interest home loan – 12 per cent – with another lender and was charged a $34,000 set-up fee.

He became so financially desperate he attempted to auction his wife’s ashes on eBay.

“It was a bit of a publicity stunt,” he said.

An application to the Australian Government under the Medical Treatment Overseas Program, which pays the costs of Australians requiring treatment available overseas but not in Australia, was knocked back. An appeal against the decision was also knocked back just two weeks ago.

Now a Gold Coast woman, June Rhodes, has started a petition demanding the Government provide financial assistance to Mr Mackinnon for his wife’s treatment.

Mrs Rhodes learnt about the CyberKnife after seeing a story about Mr Mackinnon and Ms Chapman on television.

Mrs Rhodes had just been told a tumour in her brain was inoperable and there was nothing more doctors could do for her. She travelled to Malaysia for CyberKnife treatment and has since been in remission.

The lifesaving treatment, which delivers radiation with more precision and without the side-effects of radiotherapy, is available in 200 locations throughout the world – including India, Malaysia and Thailand – but not in Australia.

Mr Mackinnon spends much of his time petitioning the Government to make the treatment available in Australia and takes about 120 phone calls each month from people all over Australia desperate to find out how they can access CyberKnife.

Mr Mackinnon said he could not afford the $4200 monthly payments on the new mortgage and is looking at selling their home.

The petition can be found at www.lobbyingforum.com

Mr Mackinnon also started a Facebook group called ‘Bring the CyberKnife cancer treatment to Australia’.



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