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Christchurch Cancer Mum’s Trip for Life

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Christchurch Cancer Mum’s Trip for Life

Courageous wife and mum of three with terminal breast cancer heads to Australia next week in her own fight for time – and in a bid to find hope for others.

A determined fundraising campaign is underway for a 42-year-old Christchurch woman with terminal breast cancer who has made the gut-wrenching decision to be apart from her husband and three young daughters to take part in a ground-breaking world wide drug trial.

Kelleigh Burkett is funding the travel to Sydney and accommodation to take part in the final stage of the 2 - 5 year study entirely herself.

“This has been the hardest decision in my life and this week has beenespecially difficult talking to the children. In fact it's been devastating,” she says.

Despite almost running out of treatment options in New Zealand, the cancer now spreading with new tumours on her hips, liver and spine, and the failure ofher last 4 treatments, Kelleigh still has plenty of fight in her and will travel on Tuesday.

“The reason I am doing this trial is not only to give myself some more time but to give hope to all the women and men living with terminal breast cancer that someday we will have more targeted therapy to prolong our lives.

“Access to these kinds of trials is only given to terminal patients. I thank the women that have died in the early part of this trial to get it this far. I may not have had this chance today if it wasn't for them. If this last stage of the trial works, in three to five years’ time it could be standard treatment.”

A treatment which could prolong life and be given to breast cancer patients before disease spreads to other areas of the body.

Diagnosed in June 2010 with a BRCA2+ breast cancer, which affects just five per cent of breast cancer patients, Kelleigh went through chemotherapy, radiation, a double mastectomy and reconstruction and had thought she had beaten the disease.

But in May 2013 a tumour was found in her spine and by January this year her condition had become life threatening.

While undergoing more treatment, Kelleigh has been determined to create wonderful memories for her husband and daughters (aged 5, 7 and 9) to cherish. Fundraising and family support have allowed a winter holiday in Tekapo, a trip to Fiji and a weekend in Wellington for the World of Wearable Arts.

But when she discovered last week she was running out of treatment options here, she immediately renewed contact with Australian experts and was accepted onto a drug trial at the Prince of Wales Cancer Centre in Sydney.

The clinical trial of PARP inhibitors, specifically in patients with BRCA mutations is in its final stage under Prof Michael Friedlander, a specialist in hereditary breast and ovarian cancers.

There is no financial support available to Kelleigh to take her place amongthese patients with metastatic cancer. New Zealand funding focuses more closely on screening for cancer prevention rather than assisting those living with the disease, or finding pathways to contribute to research.

Ministry of Health figures show more than 600 New Zealand women die from breast cancer each year.

Kelleigh’s husband Craig will travel with her on Tuesday and spend five days in Sydney while final eligibility tests to take part in the drug trial are completed.

How long Kelleigh will be away from her family is an unknown.

“I could be living there as little as nine weeks or as long as three years, it all comes down to my response to the drugs. I am devastated that I have to leave my family behind, but all going well we could be back together in the New Year.”

With the family effectively running two homes on either side of the Tasman,supporters are continuing their fundraising activities to allow Kelleigh’s daughters to visit her while she’s living in Sydney.

Details on how to make a donation can be found on the Givealittle website: Kelleigh Burkett

https://www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/getkelleighthere

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