If you read my previous blog post, you'll know that I decided to open a crowdfunding page to help fund a drug called Pembrozulimab for a lady I met online, Claire Graham. Claire and I were both diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer in March 2016. Our journeys and treatment followed a very similar path but in August 2016 she had the devastating news that Harley, her one year old son, had retinoblastoma - cancer of the eye. He had to have his eye removed (within 3 days of diagnosis) but thankfully the tumour was all contained and hadn't spread. He was fitted with a prosthetic but it hasn't been easy for him or his parents.
Claire carried on with her own chemotherapy and at the end of 2016 it should have been the end of her treatment - as it was for me. She was just waiting for radiotherapy when she started to have headaches. A CT scan revealed the cancer had spread to her brain and back to her breast and there were also lesions on her back.
During my chemotherapy and writing this website, I had contacted Team Verrico, a registered UK charity, specialising in helping families who were suffering from rare cancers. Despite being a UK charity, they agreed to help Claire who lives in Dublin with a second opinion. Professor Justin Stebbing told Claire she would best be treated with a drug called Pembrozulimab.
On her return to Dublin, she investigated the drug but to her horror found that it wasn't licenced for breast cancer use - only lung cancers - in Ireland. In order to be treated by it, she needed to pay 8,000 Euro per treatment and she needed a treatment every 3 weeks.
When I heard that I couldn't believe it. To me this was a post code lottery at its worst. It seemed so unfair and I knew my drive to beat cancer was to be alive to see my daughter grow. How could I let Harley not have the same chances to be there with his Mum???? I didn't know what to do but thought maybe crowdfunding might get enough to fund one or, at best, two treatments. So I asked Claire if she would mind if I started a page. She agreed and allowed me to use a photo of her and Harley. I told her not to get her hopes up but she had so much faith it would work. She was so convinced it would work that it frightened me. What if we didn't get anything? How would she feel? How would I feel?
Knowing I had to do something, on 1st April 2017 I set up a JustGiving page for 30 days. To my utter surprise, money just kept pouring in! I had put the target as £85,000 because Claire told me she needed about 100,000 Euro. I was so hesitant to put this as a target because it just seemed so unattainable.
Claire's utter faith in the page was right. On 30th April the page closed and it had raised an astonishing £86,465. 101% of target!
People have said I should be proud of myself but you know what? It's not me that should be proud - it's each and every one of the fantastic people who donated. The success of the page is a testament to humanity and how good the world can be. I am still stunned by how kind everyone was and how much this money will mean to Claire.
On 30th April (quite by chance) I was in Ireland at a dance competition with my daughter and so had the opportunity to meet my online friend. Claire, Declan (Claire's husband) and a very lively Harley all popped in to see us and have some photos taken. Harley had us all in stitches by dancing on the stage wearing a top hat that one of the tap dancers dropped! We also had the opportunity for my daughter's dance school, Flixton Academy of Performing Arts (FAPA), to have a group photo wearing Team Verrico t-shirts.
Claire is still very poorly but she has an internal light and strength that is clear to see. She's a devoted Mum and wife and a very special person.
I thought you might like to see some photos from our meeting and without further ado, here they are!
(Me on the left and Claire on the right)
Harley showing us that he has a future on the stage!
FAPA supporting Team Verrico