A young nurse is in a fight for her life after being diagnosed with an extremely rare and aggressive form of bile duct cancer.
In November last year, 27-year-old Charlotte Roe, from Derbyshire in the UK, was diagnosed with intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma – cancer of the bile ducts in the liver – while undergoing tests for treatment for an auto-immune disease she has had since her late teens.
The aggressive cancer is typically found in people over the age of 50.
She didn’t suffer any symptoms before the cancer was discovered, her brother, Mark Roe, told Yahoo News Australia.
“That is why this type of cancer is so terrifying,” he said.
“I don’t think this is unusual as symptoms of bile duct cancer don’t usually show until it is in an advanced stage, where treatment options are very limited.”
Charlotte underwent a liver resection to remove the tumour just before Christmas and then started six months of chemotherapy to remove any remaining cancerous cells and reduce the risk of it returning, Mark said.
Mark, alongside other sister Gemma Roe, explained in a GoFundMe fundraiser created by the family that Charlotte’s treatment was going well and her blood levels seemed promising as she neared her last few weeks of chemotherapy.
Devastatingly, this week her doctors broke the heartbreaking news the chemotherapy had stopped working and told Charlotte to start palliative chemotherapy with the view of giving her a few more months to live.
“Not only has the cancer returned, but there are multiple tumours all over her liver and bile ducts,” the siblings wrote.
Unfortunately, Charlotte’s oncologist also said the tumours were now inoperable under the county’s National Health Service.
New potential treatments bring hope
The determined nurse, who previously worked for Nottingham’s City/Queens Medical Hospital and Royal Derby Hospital, turned to contacts she made in the US who had also been diagnosed with the same cancer.
“In two days Charlotte has contacted and arranged second opinions in both the UK and America who offer alternative treatments that may be able to give her some hope,” Mark told Yahoo News Australia.
She has found two treatments that give her hope.
The first is called ‘selective internal radiation therapy’, known as SIRT, which targets each specific tumour.
The other is an advanced form of liver transplant, but it is only available at the University of Chicago’s Medicine in the US.
Because the treatments will have to be done privately, the family is asking anyone who can to lend a helping hand.
“At this stage we are unsure of the exact cost of the treatments that may be available for Charlotte and her specific circumstances, however, we do know that they will cost hundreds of thousands,” Mark said.
“We need to try anything to save her life.”
Isolation during coronavirus pandemic an added challenge
Coronavirus has made everything even more difficult.
“The isolation from any of her family and friends during this difficult time of her life has been extremely challenging because we are so close as a family,” Mark said.
“Now, after receiving this devastating news, Charlotte is worried that COVID is once again going to isolate her in a time of her life when she needs everyone around her.”
In a post to her Facebook, Charlotte said she was going to fight with everything she’s got.
“What do you do when you only have a few months left to live?” she said.
“You eat the cake, sing at the top of your voice and dance like no one’s watching. You love with all your heart and go out and live the life you have left.”
The 27-year-old paediatric nurse said she would give anything for more time and urged people not to waste theirs.
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