I have been living secondary (incurable) breast cancer for five years. Earlier this year the cancer spread to my brain and I had to have brain surgery. My husband has struggled to cope with my illness. He is currently absent and unable to support the boys and I.
The three boys are holding up well, considering. But I am struggling to provide for them and to secure their future, which is why I am asking for your help.
I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 and went through gruelling year of treatments with curative intent - including chemotherapy, mastectomy, radiotherapy and various targeted and anti-hormonal drugs.
Unfortunately, just as I was about to finish treatment in 2014, the cancer turned up in my lung and I was diagnosed with secondary/metastatic/advanced/stage four cancer. I was told it was "treatable but not curable". I have been in constant treatment since then, clocking up hundreds of appointments, undergoing various surgeries, radiotherapies, lung tumour ablation and drug treatments.
It has been tough; staying alive is a full-time job when you have cancer. But I am grateful for the extra time with my children. We have had some fun times despite the cancer misery, including a special holiday to Florida in 2015.
I did relatively well until earlier this year with the cancer coming and going in my lung. However, in February I suddenly developed stroke-like symptoms. I lost my speech and the use of my right hand. It turned out the cancer had spread not only to my brain, but also to my hip and liver.
I was fortunate enough that it was possible to remove the brain lesion and I have made a good recovery. I am back on drug treatment, but the treatments are getting harsher and harder to cope with and my options are limited.
My husband, Niall, and I have been together for 29 years. We have three sons, Oliver (14) and twins Oscar (11) and Lucas (11). The boys are awesome; they are resilient, bright, happy and good at making the most of the here and now. They have coped remarkably well with cancer being such big part of our lives for the past five years. Niall has been my rock and very supportive.
My brain surgery brought home to all of us just how desperate my situation is. It unfortunately became too much for Niall. He is not around or in a position to support the children and I right now, although we hope he will be back in our lives soon.
Why I am fundraising
I stopped working due to ill-health in 2016, having worked as a human rights advocate with Amnesty International for 18 years. Obviously there were financial implications, which put extra pressure on Niall. With him not being around, the boys and I are having to make ends meet on my disability benefit. It is not helping that my insurance company is refusing to pay out on a terminal illness policy that I took out shortly before falling ill: They figure I must have known I had cancer at the time!
I am currently trying to finish a building project we started years ago when we thought I would be OK. This is necessary both to make the house liveable and in case we end up needing to rent it out or sell. I need to raise about £6000 to bring the house up to a reasonable standard, make it safe and get the building works signed off. I also need to find money for a legal and other outstanding bills.
Unfortunately, I will not be able to live on my own with the children for any length of time. If things don't change, I may have to relocate to Denmark so my family can look after me and the boys. That will mean securing a place to live, paying for removals and finding money for school fees so the boys can carry on in an English language school. I am unsure of the cost, but it will run into the thousands.
While I have been ill, I have used complimentary therapies and taken a lot of supplements in order to give my body the best chance of healing. I have been spending about £200 per month on these things and have had to give them up for now due to the cost. I'm hoping to be able to restart these treatments as they were definitely making me feel stronger.
Finally, I hope that I will have enough time left and raise enough money to do something special with the boys - perhaps another holiday. The last really happy family memory we have is when we went to Paris and Disneyland in April 2017. This year has been so traumatic, surreal and challenging that it beggars belief. It would be lovely to think there might be a chance to make more happy memories.
If you are at all able to help - practically, financially or in any other way - I would be ever so grateful. You can get in touch with me via Facebook (look for Dorthe Christensen Conlon). Donations can be made via go fund me - they will all be gratefully received. Every penny will help. You don't need to live in the UK - go fund me can be used from anywhere in the world.
I feel terrible having to ask for your help, but I am in an impossible situation right now. And I know from experience there is so much kindness and love out there. In fact, the kindness of friends, family and even strangers has restored my faith in humanity and is what keeps me going, along with the love of my boys.
Much love and gratitude to all,
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- Clair Dunne
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