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Sisters launch 'Go Fund Me' to combat mother's rare cancer

Published:Tuesday | December 13, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Carol Harris and family.
Debbie Harris stands by her mother Carol.

Siblings Debbie and Sashana Harris are spearheading an online campaign to raise $3.6 million to further combat a rare form of breast cancer afflicting their mother.

Fifty-eight-year-old Carol Harris was diagnosed with Paget's disease of the breast in March 2015. Paget's disease of the breast, also known as Paget's disease of the nipple, is a rare condition associated with breast cancer. It causes eczema-like changes to the skin of the nipple and the area of darker skin surrounding the nipple (areola).

In May 2015, Harris underwent surgery to remove one of her breasts. Subsequent testing of the lymph nodes, as well as a CT scan, showed that there was a possibility that the cancer had spread to her lungs. She has since undergone chemotherapy and radiation therapy and tests indicated that treatment was successful in reducing the number of cancerous cells in her body.


Needs expensive drug


However, because of the rareness of the cancer, she now requires 12 treatments of the drug Herceptin, which is expected to increase her chances of survival. But this next phase of treatment with Herceptin is rather costly at approximately $300,000 per vial.

Herceptin treatment requires consistency. Thus, payment for all 12 treatments required in full, prior to commencement.

Harris has utilised what free or minimal cost treatment is available from public-health services. She has supplemented that with family savings and health insurance. She has also received support from Jamaica Energy Partners and Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education Fund.

"The love and assurance that I've received from friends and co-workers have kept me strong," Debbie told The Gleaner in response to our queries about coping with her mother's diagnosis. She added: "I have very good friends who have been my support system, they've never told me no at any time."

Her sister Sashana echoed similar sentiments regarding her support network.

Both sisters revealed how their mother would spend long periods at their respective offices. She would accompany them to work before or after her routine clinic visits. They explained that she would go to the hospital as early as

5 a.m. and then go back for evening clinics to do pre-checks, then for treatment.

Both would also alternate to drop off her appointment card and do blood work in preparation for chemotherapy and radiation. They also spent hours at times at the Drug Serv pharmacies in Kingston to pick up drugs for their mother's treatment.

"She is determined to be a survivor and not a victim of this horrible disease," said Debbie.


Beacon of hope


In spite of the obstacles she now has to hurdle, Carol Harris remains a beacon of hope. She stays active and even helped to paint the house last Christmas.

Sashana's six-year-old son, Kaniel, serves as Carol's tower of strength and motivation throughout the entire ordeal.

"Even when she did her surgery he was helping me to care for her," Debbie stated.

She added: "[He helped] me to drain the tubes. He wouldn't even allow her to go to the bathroom by herself. He has argued with her about the dangers of her going to the bathroom alone. What if she fell? He wouldn't be able to help her if he is not there."

Husband Errol Harris, son Richard and other relatives are also actively involved in Carol's dynamic schedule.

"We are humbly appealing to all those persons out there who are able and willing to assist us to donate ASAP as we attempt to start this next phase in treatment for our precious mother and friend."

Those willing to donate online or make contact in an effort to assist Carol Harris may do so by linking to the website, or email, or call 876-318-2990