Mother joins campaign for breast cancer medicine funding
Funding for breast cancer drugs couldn't come soon enough for an Auckland mother-of-three.
Kelleigh Burkett has secondary breast cancer and travels to Australia regularly for life-saving treatment not publicly funded in New Zealand.
It's all about family for the 44-year-old, who lives on the North Shore with her husband and three young daughters.
"My family is everything and all I want to do is raise my girls as best as I can. They're too young to lose their mum," Burkett says.
"They still need their mum around and I'd like to be around. That's why I'm living. I want to be there as long as I can."
Burkett was originally diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. The disease then returned in 2013 and had spread to her brain, liver and bones.
She was told she was out of options for treatment so she started researching other means and came across a clinical drug trial in Sydney.
With support and fundraising from friends and family, she moved there for six months in 2014 for the drug trial, receiving weekly treatment of the drug Veliparib.
She now visits Sydney every three to six weeks to receive treatment. It is something she will continue doing until the medicine stops working, she says.
"To be told that you've run out of options is quite heartbreaking.
"When you're faced with a possible imminent and fast death you become quite proactive and try to find other treatments."
Burkett is part of a Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition drive to get people to sign an open letter to Health Minister Jonathan Coleman calling for an increase in funding for medicines.
The campaign was launched on October 13 and aims to highlight the plight of women with advanced breast cancer who are missing out on medicines such as Kaycyla and Perjeta.
Burkett's friends and family helped raise money to cover the more than $75,000 costs involved in moving as well as her regular flights to and from Sydney.
She says she wouldn't have had those costs if the drugs were available in New Zealand.
"I want to extend my life for as long as possible, even if it's two months or two years. You would understand if you were told there were no more medical options."
The open letter to the Government is at breastcancer.org.nz/meds.