Help Team Elizabeth Beat Cancer: Round 2!

*UPDATE: Incredibly, due to the generous support of our friends, we reached our original goal of $58,000 in eight days!  The momentum continues, and we’d like to clarify that any funds received beyond this will be held for Phase 2 (the next 8 months of immunotherapy, as we hope all will go well).  The estimated total for the full twelve months of immunotherapy is $174,000, so continued support is crucial and appreciated more than ever.

A message from my mom, Elizabeth:

This is my second bout of cancer – now a life-threatening Stage 4. In April 2019, I began 6 months of chemo for metastasized breast cancer, only afterward learning I was misdiagnosed and actually have a very rare Clear-Cell type of Endometrial Cancer.  Over the last six months I then tried two other chemos, neither of which had any effect.  My doctor told me my very last resort is now  immunotherapy and that I must start it as soon as possible. It’s not funded for my type of cancer – not by MSP, the BC Cancer Agency, or extended health plans – but I need access immediately.  So I urgently ask for my community’s help in raising $58,000 to start a four-month trial in hopes of prolonging my life.  I’m convinced it’s not yet my time to go!  I know I have so much more to offer, and dream of happier times ahead with my girls and family, returning to the architectural library work that I love, surrounding myself with my many terrific friends and colleagues, and eventually a peaceful retirement with my husband. With your help, I believe I can!

In April 2011, at the age of 51, Elizabeth, a loving wife and mother of two, was diagnosed with an advanced, aggressive form of breast cancer.  Over the course of 2 ½ years, she underwent chemotherapy, a double mastectomy involving three surgeries, and radiotherapy.  At the end of the difficult treatment that forever changed the lives of everyone in our family, she was told she was cancer-free – a huge relief and cause for celebration. 

47358450_1586740933488651_r.jpegOur family doing the Run for the Cure after Elizabeth went into remission in 2012

My mom remained a breast cancer survivor for eight years.  After those years of preventative tamoxifen, regular monitoring, and seemingly returning to complete health after making changes to her lifestyle, she noticed dramatic abdominal swelling.  After much testing, she was diagnosed with a return of cancer in April 2019, this time with metastasized breast cancer.  It was an unbelievable shock. She had 2 sessions to drain accumulated fluid and was immediately started on 6 months of intense weekly chemotherapy.  Her cancer markers initially responded and there was hope that the cancer was – if not going into remission – possibly able to be relegated to a chronic condition that could be coped with for a number of years.

However, in October 2019, immediately after the chemo finished, bloodwork and a CT scan revealed that the cancer had now spread.  Further testing and biopsies showed that the cancer was not metastasized breast cancer after all, but actually Stage 4 Endometrial Clear Cell cancer that had spread to the ovaries. The misdiagnosis meant the 6 months of previous chemo had not been targeted at the correct cancer and there is no way of knowing if the correct diagnosis early on would have been able to prevent the cancer’s subsequent progression.  Endometrial and ovarian cancers are notoriously difficult to treat and prone to reoccurrence, but the clear cell type that my mom has makes the success of conventional treatments especially unlikely and highly unpredictable.

47358450_1586740682360820_r.jpegAlways with a big smile, even during her first paracentesis session to drain the cancer’s fluid build-up

In November 2019 Elizabeth began four months of a second type of chemo, only to have a CT scan show that it was having no effect and the cancer had spread even further, including to the liver.  At this time, we were told that there was only one option left as the cancer was so advanced.  The only remaining option that offers any hope of prolonging or saving my mom’s life is immunotherapy.

The recommended immunotherapy treatment is the IV drug Keytruda (by Merck) which has recently been approved by Health Canada but is not funded by MSP, the BC Cancer Agency, or by extended health plans for endometrial or ovarian cancers.  It is used in combination with the daily oral pill Lenvatanib (by EISAI).  Currently, all clinical trials – which would have offered free access – have been cancelled indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Even under normal circumstances, there is an onerously long waitlist and very low chance of being chosen.  

Time is critical and the only way to access the treatment is to pay privately.  One piece of good news is that EISAI contacted us and is giving Elizabeth free access to their drug on compassionate grounds, a savings of $10,000/month.  However, this is dependent on her having access to Keytruda, as Lenvatanib cannot be used alone.  The cost of the remaining Keytruda immunotherapy – for which there is no financial assistance – is estimated at $10,000-$14,500/month.  

Currently, as of March 2020, Elizabeth is on a third chemo-type administered weekly, hoping to keep the cancer at bay until funds are in place to allow immunotherapy to begin.  Without immunotherapy, my mom’s life expectancy is very short as chemotherapies have not been effective, and there is absolutely no option for other treatment such as surgery or radiotherapy as the disease has progressed too far.

47358450_1586739915761177_r.jpegUndergoing her weekly chemo in April 2020

The estimated cost for Elizabeth’s immunotherapy at this time are:

1)     $10,000-$14,500/month for the initial four months = ~$58,000

2)     Progress will be assessed after four months, and if the results are hopeful, treatment will be continued for another eight months = $174,000 total for 1 year.

Securing the funds of $58,000 for the initial four months is our first goal to start treatment.  To be very clear, without the immunotherapy which offers some hope for prolonging her life, she has been given an estimate of a year or so for survival - a prognosis none of us can accept.  My mom is continuing to fight and stay strong and positive with the help of our family and friends, but the need for action is urgent.  She continued to work when possible over the last year of treatment, but the proposed treatments require additional help to finance this sudden demand.

My mom has the greatest faith that timely treatment will help her remain strong to return to her regular activities with her much loved family and friends.  And of course, to continue with the work she loves as library consultant to terrific, supportive clients in the architectural community.  Please support her in her determined fight to beat cancer for the second time, once and for all!  

This miracle cannot be accomplished by us alone, but can be made possible by our entire community of family, friends, and colleagues.  Our family is so very grateful for everyone’s support in whatever form you can provide - whether it be a donation of any size or by sharing my mom’s story to further our campaign. 

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. 

47358450_1586740971459016_r.jpegCelebrating Mother's Day several years ago - me, my dad Mike, my sister Megan and my mom Elizabeth

47358450_1586740180753978_r.jpegElizabeth ringing in her 60th birthday post-diagnosis (wearing her chemo wig!)


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Organizer and beneficiary

Emily Burton-Brown 
Vancouver, BC
Elizabeth Burton-Brown 

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