"It was like somebody flicked a switch."
As private people, asking for assistance goes against every fibre of the Wheaton family's being, however a hospital bill worth hundreds of thousands of dollars has launched the family into taking desperate measures.
The family of four who live in Bocoble - located 20 minutes from Mudgee - made a trip to visit family in another state earlier this year which proved to be a moment in time that changed their lives forever.
"I've got elderly parents in South Australia. We had gone over to see them in February, we weren't sure what was happening with my dad's health," Mrs Cara Wheaton said.
"The day after we arrived, Charlie [Cara's husband] said to me 'I feel ok but my face is numb'.
"He got up the next day and from that point on, he could feel something wasn't right."
After countless tests, the Wheaton's had a Zoom meeting with Neurosurgeon, Dr Charlie Teo on July 27 where Mr Wheaton was diagnosed with a Pineal Apoplexy, a tumour in the pineal gland (centre of the brain).
The symptoms Mr Wheaton was experiencing five months prior to his diagnosis were a result of the brain tumour hemorrhaging.
"When you hear of something hemorrhaging in your head, it's not a good feeling," Mrs Wheaton said.
"Charlie has a great memory, he's very active and busy, always doing things and then all of a sudden it was like somebody flicked a switch.
"It's something you hear of other people going through but it's not until it's being said to you that in order to give you back your quality of life, you need to have this surgery."
With Mr Wheaton unable to work and Mrs Wheaton being the primary carer of their 12-year-old son, Chaz who lives with severe non-verbal autism and an intellectual disability, the family are stretched thin.
"When you have a child that is on the severe end of the spectrum, you have a very different life compared to other people and that's ok with us," Mrs Wheaton said.
"Our son has severe sensory issues that go along with his autism so he does not cope very well with certain sounds like other children playing which is why I homeschool him, it's the only option.
"Charlie hasn't been able to work for about six to eight weeks now. His workplace is very understanding but we can't give them any guarantees.
"It's such an unknown time, that's probably the hardest part."
Mr and Mrs Wheaton's eldest, Zari recently set up a Go Fund Me page with the help of a long-time family friend, Stacey, in an attempt to ease some of the surgery's financial sting.
At the time of publication, the Go Fund Me has raised over $11,000, an amount that brings Mrs Wheaton to tears.
"For the first few days I cried over every donation," she said.
I still cry when people donate but I'm getting better. You just can't believe people are so caring and want to help you so much.- Cara Wheaton
"We've never asked anybody for anything, we really haven't. We have never even asked someone to pick up some bread and milk for us, we would just go without.
"My sweet husband is really struggling with the Go Fund Me, it's totally against his grain to ask anyone for help let alone money.
"We see beautiful friends, family and people we don't even know come out of the woodwork to help us. It's really humbling."
The coronavirus pandemic has added to the stress of the situation with surgery now in limbo given the ongoing lockdowns.
"To chuck that [COVID] in as well, we're all in lockdown, we can't get to Sydney," Mrs Wheaton said.
"We're not sure they're even going to be operating at this point.
"It just adds another element of being unsure of how everything is going to go in the next six months."
Given the future's uncertainty, the family are trying to remain positive but admit it can be a challenge.
"We don't know what the future holds for us so we're doing everything we can to try and raise the money as fast as we can to get the surgery," Mrs Wheaton said.
"We're normally strong, secure and positive people, we don't let things get us down, but this is a big one.
"We're really hanging on to the hope that it will all be ok."
If you would like to contribute to the Go Fund Me page, click here.
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