Terminally ill mum in race against time

Kelleigh Burkett with daughters Paige, 9, Charli, 5, Holly, 6, and husband Craig.
Kelleigh Burkett with daughters Paige, 9, Charli, 5, Holly, 6, and husband Craig.

Kelleigh Burkett knows her time with her three gorgeous girls and husband Craig is running out, and she's trying to cram in a lifetime of memories.

The breast cancer sufferer, who's already battled chemotherapy, radiation, a double mastectomy and reconstruction, will try anything to eke out a little more family time, including experimental drug trials in Australia.

"We're going over to see that if - under any compassionate grounds - they might consider giving me this drug to slow down the cancer and give me more time with my children. That's all I'm after."

Mrs Burkett, 41, thought she had overcome the aggressive cancer which was first diagnosed in June 2010, a year after her youngest daughter was born. But last May a tumour emerged in her spine.

Earlier this month MRI scans found tumours had formed on her brain and in her liver.

The Christchurch woman has tried, and continues to try, everything the New Zealand medical community has to offer.

This week she finished the latest round of intensive, and "very scary", brain radiation therapy and has more treatment scheduled in a few days.

But she has heard about experimental drug trials in Sydney which, if accepted into the PARP inhibitor trial drug programme, may buy her some more time. The PARP inhibitor is designed to repair glitches on damaged strands of DNA.

Mrs Burkett, stricken with a BRCA2+ breast cancer which affects just 5 per cent of all patients, is now trying to raise the money to fly to Australia and meet with specialists next month.

"I am well aware that the options of avenue of treatment is diminishing in New Zealand," said the former travel agent who is originally from Rai Valley, 50km from Nelson.

"We're a small country and do the best we can. But while I'm well enough at the moment, I'm wanting to just give this promising drug a go in Australia and see if the specialists there can help me in any way. Anything is worth a go."

Mrs Burkett, who lost an aunt and cousin to breast cancer last year, is also aware that her daughters Charli, 5, Holly, 6, and Paige, 9, have a 50 per cent chance of inheriting the BRCA2+ gene. It puts them at risk of breast or ovarian cancer as early as their 20s.

Doctors have given Mrs Burkett and graphic designer husband Craig, 43, expectations on how long she has. But she "doesn't accept time frames".

"I feel I have time to put in place some things ... memories that will be special for my children," she said.

She is busy compiling photo albums and planning trips away.

"I want to do things where they'll think back and say, 'Hey, remember when mum took us there'."

On the web: www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/kelleighburkett

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