By Renee Bogatko, Image Credits – supplied
A single Canberra mum with cancer is preparing for life-changing surgery that could mean she’s able to see her 4-year-old daughter grow up.
Chelsea Ann was first diagnosed with a very rare form of sarcoma cancer in 2014 when she was just 25, less than a year after she’d given birth to her beautiful daughter, Lola.
Instead of being able to celebrate the joys of motherhood, Chelsea’s life became all about hospital trips and invasive surgeries.
Her cancer, Myxoid Lipasarcoma, is so rare, it affects on average, just 30 out of a million people.
So far, the only treatment options are radiation therapy and surgical removal. There is no known cure.
It’s been a rough road for Chelsea and her family, to say the least.
Since her first diagnosis, she’s had to deal with the recurrence of the first tumour, as well as 3 additional tumours.
That’s involved 2 rounds of radiation, 5 surgeries and a terrible case of septicaemia – which had Chelsea’s family fearing for her life.
To paint the picture of just how aggressive this cancer is – in January this year, Chelsea’s last cancer showed a small 1cm shadow on her scan. By March, it had grown to 7cm long.
Chelsea doesn’t have time up her sleeve – so being put on a public hospital wait list isn’t an option.
In September this year, Chelsea received some heart-breaking news.
Her cancer had metastasised to the bone in her spine and doctors were reluctant to operate.
Without the surgery, it’s likely the tumour on her spine would strangle her spinal chord – potentially leaving Chelsea paralysed and unable to move in her final days.
After a number of knock-backs, they struck gold with a team of highly skilled surgeons who’ve agreed to perform the revolutionary surgery.
Dr Paul Stalley and the team from the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse cancer centre will remove her T12 vertebrae where the cancer is, and replace it with a metal cage.
Given the rate Chelsea’s cancer grows and the location of the tumour, Chelsea’s had to go into the surgery as a private patient. And with that – comes the costs.
The operation is expected to cost over $22,000.
That doesn’t even include other expenses like accommodation, hospital parking, patient transport costs after surgery, follow up appointments, travel, potential costs associated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy, freezing her eggs, the costs involved with Chelsea’s family needing to take leave without pay to care for her, the list goes on.
Her operation is scheduled for this Thursday, November 23, in Sydney.
But what does Chelsea’s future look like beyond Thursday’s surgery?
“Most likely radiation at this point to get anything that might have been missed in the operation. The doctors are also talking about doing Chemotherapy just as an ‘it can’t hurt’ measure,” Chelsea’s sister Samantha said.
“Dr Stalley said this surgery will change her prognosis from 1 year to about 5-10 years, meaning she will get to see her daughter Lola grow up. He did say the cancer would continue to come back and one day it will win.”
A GoFundMe page set up to help raise funds for Chelsea has already gone gangbusters – raising more than $20,000 in less than 24 hours.
“It is unbelievable the amount of support we have in such a short amount of time. Even local businesses are getting onboard and they have spread the word so much within a couple of hours. We are so grateful to the community for supporting us, no words can convey our gratitude,” Samantha said.
“We waited so long to ask for help because we didn’t want to burden those around us with our struggles. We are still in shock at the amount of support and warm wishes we have received. Thank you so much to everyone.”
The outpouring of support also means they may be able to afford to bring Chelsea’s sister Casey and her family over from Perth for Christmas – so they can all spend it together as a family.
But the family still needs our help for what is expected to be a long and costly process!
You can show your support by donating at the GoFundMe page.