A CORK father is spearheading a campaign to raise more than €90,000 to fund pioneering breast cancer treatment for his wife.
Colm O’Connell’s wife, Leah, was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer while six months pregnant with their son, Seth.
Leah, aged 34, has been on gruelling treatment, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, ever since.
Despite this, the disease has continued to advance through her bones and liver and she is in increasing pain.
Her doctors tell her that the next best step involves expensive immunotherapy drugs.
The family, friends and colleagues of the couple, who are living in Hertfordshire, England, have launched an online appeal to raise money to pay for this new treatment.
While the drugs she needs are showing great promise in trials, they need to be privately funded as they are not yet licensed for breast cancer. This means they are not available through the health service or health insurance.
Within the first 24 hours, more than 320 people had donated almost €25,000 to the crowdfunding site JustGiving to support Leah’s treatment.
Colm O’Connell, aged 39, who grew up in Cill na Martra, and is the son of well-known fiddle player Connie O’Connell, said: “We were looking forward to the birth of our first child when we received the devastating diagnosis.
“Now we want to get the best possible treatment for Leah so that she can spend as long as possible being a mother to Seth.
“It has been a very traumatic and stressful time, but the generosity of people... is giving us renewed hope.”
Leah, an events organiser, discovered she had genetic breast cancer after finding a lump during her pregnancy. She started chemotherapy straight away and continued treatment after Seth’s birth in December 2016. Seth is now 18 months old.
She said: ‘This is not a position we ever thought we would find ourselves in, but the response to our appeal has been amazing and means I can access a drug I thought I may never get. “It gives me an opportunity to spend more time with Seth and Colm. We are overwhelmed by people’s generosity and kindness. We are hoping to raise £80,000 (€90,000) to fund a full year’s supply of the drug.”
Leah is due to start the self-funded immunotherapy drug, which stimulates the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells, in mid-June.
Donate to Leah O’Connell’s fundraising appeal at: