Love & staying positive conquers all

Ruth South and her husband Neville have endured way more than any couple should have to face together, yet their love is stronger than ever.

They met at a young age. When Ruth was just 16, they bought a property in the picturesque township of Cockatoo in Dandenong's Eastern Ranges. Seven years later, their home was razed to the ground in the Ash Wednesday fires. The couple chose to rebuild and are still in the same house today.

They married in 1978 and had four sons. When their third-born son, Matthew, was just 19, they were dealt another massive blow. Matthew was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and Osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. He underwent aggressive treatment at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and had several surgeries at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne. He fought hard, but just two years later, Ruth and Neville lost their beloved son to this cruel disease.

The devoted couple and their close family unit made their way through the heavy grief by focusing on loved ones and even Neville’s bad dad jokes.

Facing Another Big Challenge

In 2022, despite never being sick for a day in her life, Ruth discovered a lump on her cheek and under her eye. Ruth said, “The lump kept getting bigger, and I didn’t feel well. I had a lot of body pain."

Her initial diagnosis was Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). Ruth remembers spending Good Friday at the Eye and Ear Hospital. From there, she was sent to St Vincent’s. “I couldn’t get a biopsy done because I was on blood thinners for DVT, so I had an anxious five day wait for any updates.”

Ruth was diagnosed with Stage 4 Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma, an aggressive type of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

After a stay in 6 West, St Vincent’s oncology ward, Ruth was fortunately able to go onto a clinical trial. She also underwent a cycle of chemotherapy (chemo). The treatment was so successful she received a diagnosis of complete remission!

The close couple spent the next six months enjoying Ruth’s good health. They took a few short trips and focused on spending quality time with family. Then, at the end of April in 2023, Ruth started having double vision and trouble walking.

Cancer Strikes Again

“I lost my hearing in one ear temporarily. That’s when they discovered I had a brain tumour. They don’t remove this type of tumour, so I started having chemo at St Vincent’s. After five weeks, an MRI showed that the tumours were gone. Everything was looking positive for a stem cell transplant. This was the one thing that would give me the chance of a longer remission.”

Heartbreakingly, she developed an issue with her heart which delayed the next steps. During that time, her cancer returned, sending her back to square one.

After another six weeks of chemo, Ruth has now been approved for a stem cell transplant at St Vincent's.

“The St Vincent’s team have been absolutely wonderful. My brain Lymphoma is quite rare. I’ve been following what they do in the USA, and my treatment is the same; it’s leading-edge,” Ruth said.

Despite the many challenges Ruth and Neville have had to face, they both remain positive. Ruth said she’s grateful she’s still got all her ‘beans’ and still has options.

Neville has learnt to cook, he’s in the third year of his ‘apprenticeship’, and he looks after all of Ruth’s medications. “We laugh a lot, and we’re lucky because we get along really well.”

Ruth said, “If I crack, it’s only me that suffers, so I try to be strong. I’ve paid for my funeral, and I’ve done all my photos and music list. That was upsetting for Neville and me, but I’m not planning to go anywhere.”

Dry July Champions

Ruth’s immediate and extended family have participated in the Dry July campaign for several years. Last year alone, they raised an incredible $16,000 for St Vincent’s Hospital.

Neville said, “Our eldest son Steven was the first to do Dry July, then family and friends joined him. When a loved one is sick, you can feel quite helpless.

“Taking part in Dry July helps our family to feel empowered because they can do something positive for their loved one and for all patients going through cancer.”

Two of Ruth’s nieces have already signed up this year, and she suspects other family members will get involved again.

“St Vincent’s and their patients need the support of Dry July. It makes life just a bit easier when you’re having treatment. The little creature comfort like the pamper packs makes it much nicer,” Ruth said.

Click here to see Ruth share why people should participate in Dry July.

Join Ruth’s family today. Individuals and workplace teams can sign up for Dry July.

St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne





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