Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Kiwis dig deep for terminally ill mum

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.

Big-hearted Kiwis have dug deep today and donated more than $16,000 in just a few hours to support a terminally ill breast cancer sufferer battling for more time with her family.

Kelleigh Burkett, 41, is desperately fundraising to try to get accepted for experimental drug trials in Australia which could buy her more precious time in creating a lifetime of memories for her children.

Before the Christchurch mum's story was highlighted in today's New Zealand Herald, she had raised around $6,000 on fundraising website, Givealittle.

Her goal was to raise $10,000.

But in just a few hours this morning, thousands of dollars' worth of donations flooded in. At 3pm, the total was sitting at $22,087.

"It is beyond our imaginations and is what dreams are made of," a Facebook page dedicated to Mrs Burkett's story said today.

"We are getting at least 2-3 donations a minute from super generous and kind people from all over New Zealand."

Most of the donations have come with comments wishing her all the best.

Mrs Burkett thought she had overcome the aggressive cancer that she was first diagnosed with in June 2010, a year after her youngest daughter Charli was born.

But it returned last May when a tumour emerged in her spine.

Earlier this month, an acute migraine sent her to hospital where MRI scans found another tumour had formed on her brain. It had also taken residence in her liver.

She has tried, and continues to try, everything that 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 for Dunedin in a few days.

But she has heard about experiment 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, who's already battled chemotherapy, radiation, a double mastectomy and reconstruction, is willing to try anything.

"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, stricken with a BRCA2+ breast cancer which affects just five per cent of all patients, is now trying to raise the money to fly to Australia with her 43-year-old husband Craig, who she calls her "rock", to meet with specialists next month.

"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," said the former travel agent who is originally from Rai Valley, 50kms from Nelson.

Mrs Burkett, who lost an aunty 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 of inheriting BRCA2+ gene. It puts them at risk of breast or ovarian cancer as early as their 20s.

Doctors have given her expectations on how long she has. But she "doesn't accept time frames".

The inspirational young mum would prefer to get active and do as much as she can while she's able to.

"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.

The Burketts hope to hire a campervan for an Easter road-trip, and teaching her daughters to ski is also on her agenda.

"I don't have any grand ideas - I just want to spend time with my kids," she said.

"We've got such a beautiful country and I would love to share it with them.

"Craig and I went to Queenstown years ago for the ice festival and I'd love to take them there.

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

- APNZ

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