An Australian school teacher is fighting for her life after a routine appendix removal led to a shocking diagnosis of stage 4 cancer that had spread to several of her organs.
Two years ago, Kathryn Berecic, known to friends and family as Kat, was diagnosed with an extremely rare and aggressive form of appendix cancer at the age of 31.
"This diagnosis came as a huge shock as I've been health conscious and active my whole life," Ms Berecic explained on her GoFundme page. "With this diagnosis, I had all my hopes and dreams ripped away from me, which is a hard pill to swallow as a 31-year-old."
Mother of all surgeries
Appendix cancer affects around one to two people out of a million and is rather difficult to treat. It's so rare that there are only about 10 surgeons with expertise in treating it, one of them based in Sydney.
Ms Berecic has since had to travel interstate for three surgeries to date. These procedures, referred to as MOAS (mother of all surgeries), can take 12 hours or more. Kat's surgeries have so far taken about 14 hours each, and she says it took her months to recover from having a number of organs removed.
Kat – who is described by friends and family as courageous, selfless, caring, kind, intelligent and beautiful inside and out – is faced with the prospect of having to explore treatment options overseas due to limited resources in Australia.
"After remaining incredibly strong and positive for so long, my mental health finally decided to mirror my physical health, and to top it all off, after another excruciating surgery, I have a belly full of cancer again," Ms Berecic said in an update on November 6.
"To date, I've had 3 major surgeries, 2 doses of HIPEC and 20 rounds of chemotherapy, but unfortunately these treatments haven't been as effective as we'd hoped," Kat added. "With my cancer continuing to grow, and with limited treatment options available to me in Australia, we've had to think outside the box and explore options overseas."
After months of research and discussions with doctors in Australia and abroad, Ms Berecic explained that she and her family have decided to pursue a treatment called adoptive cell therapy, a type of immunotherapy where immune cells are given to a patient to help the body fight diseases such as cancer.
The treatment however is not available in Australia, and will come at a high cost financially and physically as it would involve Kat travelling to Japan twice for her first round of therapy as a start. The first set of infusions and injections are set to cost around $50,000 alone, and the ongoing treatment is expected to bring medical bills up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
After this, Kat will have to return a few times a year for the ongoing treatment.
"We simply can't do this alone," Ms Berecic said. "On a single wage, it's hit us pretty hard. So I'm asking for your help. It's incredibly difficult for me to do this, because I know others are doing it tough too, but I would really appreciate your help in sharing this page to assist me in raising the funds for this treatment which could potentially be a game changer for me.
"There's nothing more awkward and uncomfortable for me than asking for help, but my life quite literally depends on it and I'm desperate to spend more time on this Earth with my loved ones."
Since her diagnosis, Ms Berecic and her husband have had to move in with her parents so she can receive daily care and support as she navigates her frequent appointments.
The GoFundMe for Kat has so far earned a little over $81,500 dollars from 859 donations, but still needs to raise over $100,000 to help pay for treatment-related costs.
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