The desperate family of a 44-year-old mother from the NSW Central Coast is rallying behind her, after she was given just weeks to live.
in March last year, Karen Gillingham was diagnosed with Pleomorphic Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that only affects eight in every 10 million people.
Earlier this month her oncologist told her she was too weak to continue treatment and that all traditional medical treatment would stop. She moved back home on January 11 where she is in palliative care.
“Karen was told to get her affairs in order and prepare to die with a life expectancy of 2 to 3 weeks,” a GoFundMe page raising money to help Ms Gillingham says.
The GoFundMe page says Ms Gillingham has four biological children, four step children and eight grandchildren.
This year was the year Ms Gillingham was hoping to travel from Australia to Ireland, where she was born and immigrated from when she was six-years-old.
“This year (2021) was to be the year that Karen had planned to finally return to Ireland on a much needed extended holiday and to proudly show her loving Husband, Glen Gillingham, her birthplace and introduce him to all her extended family,” the GoFundMe said.
Family seeking funds for alternative cancer treatments
The family’s focus is now on raising money for alternative treatments that are used overseas but for which there is no funding from the Australian government. In just a few days, more than $33,000 has been raised.
“We have a big family network and support network – that’s how the ball started rolling,” Mr Gillingham told 7News.
Since Ms Gillingham was diagnosed in 2020, she has had four surgeries, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, though “still this insidious disease continues to grow and devastate Karen's body,” the GoFundMe says.
“The cancer is now in Karen's left chest, liver, left thigh, right thigh and left bicep and despite all the traditional cancer treatments it continues to grow,” the GoFundMe says.
“The tumour in Karen's left chest is over 25cm in size and is pressing on her heart.”
The family is now looking at costly treatments which are not available in Australia.
“Because Pleomorphic Rhabdomyosarcoma is so rare, most have not been tested on this type of cancer,” the GoFundMe says.
“But, at some time or another all cancer treatments are new and need to be tested. This is what we are doing here, and we might just find a cure for Pleomorphic Rhabdomyosarcoma to save many more lives.”
Given Ms Gillingham has only been given weeks to live, her family is under pressure to get the money together to trial other forms of treatment.
According to 7News, Mr and Ms Gillingham’s business went into liquidation in March last year.
“Immunotherapy alone could cost as much as $150,000, not to mention all the other treatments. Karen and her family do not have this kind of money,” the GoFundMe says.
“Please help Karen to live, to survive to see her kids grow up.”
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