'I want to be around to watch my little girl grow up': Preston mum diagnosed with rare form of cancer raising money for treatment in America
Kim Fletcher, from Leyland, is appealing for donations to fund her treatment in America after she was given the news that she had Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of tissue cancer that only affects one per cent of the population.
The 23-year-old residential children’s care worker and her family had their lives turned upside down overnight in August, with trips to the Liverpool cancer centre for chemotherapy starting within just days of her diagnosis.
Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a rare type of cancer that forms in the soft tissue - although it can occur at any age, it affects children mostly.
Kim had first thought she was suffering from an ulcer on her face, after noticing a small growth on her cheek that was then left undiagnosed.
She said: “I started with what I thought was an ulcer inside my mouth. I left it a while as it never bothered me, but then months went by and it suddenly started getting bigger.
“I took myself to get checked and was told that I had blocked salivary glands and that it was nothing to worry about.
“The growth just got out of control. This tiny little ulcer-like lump started to show on the outside of my face rather than just inside.”
Kim was told again that it was nothing serious, until she collapsed outside her work in July, leaving her determined to ask for more tests.
The result of numerous MRI scans, X-rays, blood tests and a biopsy eventually showed that she had the rare aggressive form of tissue cancer and was told her chemotherapy had to start straight away.
She was then told that the tumour was embedded within her face tissue and will need complete facial reconstruction to remove - once the tumor spreads it is completely incurable.
In August, Kim was working full-time hours as a care worker and continued to do so until she became unable to, as the chemotherapy started to take away her independence and made her lose her hair and mobility.
She says: “Nothing much is the same as it was before chemotherapy started. It took so much away from me.
“The doctor described the cancer as a ticking bomb and once it goes off there isn’t any going back. Chemotherapy was put into place but we have been advised that this is not shrinking the cancer enough.
“I’m angry, I’m upset and I’m lost for words even now. I’m literally one per cent of the population to have this cancer, my age goes against me.
“It’s hard and I’m struggling but I’m grateful for my life and who I have by my side. I wish it hadn’t taken me to have cancer to realise everything I have but I guess it’s just life.”
The next step for Kim will be reconstructive and disfigurement surgery - a procedure that would take a minimum of 12 hours, using bones from her leg to replace the bones in her face that need to be removed.
But she believes that she should be offered radiotherapy first, in a bid to stop the growth of the cancer and buy her more time to get alternative treatment.
She was also handed the heartbreaking advice from her doctor to start making memories and bucket lists.
“I don’t want to write a bucket list, I want to be around to watch my girl grow up, marry the man of my dreams and live a healthy life,” says Kim.
“I was a normal typical mum, working full time as a carer, taking care of family life at home and suddenly everything just completely changed for me and my family.
“I can’t stop at this, I can’t just accept that I have less than a 50 per cent chance at living.
“It’s honestly just happened all at once. Me and my partner worked full time throughout the pandemic and we were only fundraising to cover our living costs at first, now all of a sudden I need thousands for different care that I cannot get over here.”
In a bid to escape going through facial reconstruction surgery, Kim is now hoping to fund a trip to the states, after researching alternative treatments of clinical trials that could be a lifeline for her and a chance of survival.
Kim says that reconstruction surgery only offers her a 25 per cent chance of survival.
And her partner Darren will be skydiving 11,000 feet in order to help raise money to send his family to the states for further treatment.
Kim adds: “It’s something that just simply cannot be afforded by me or my family. I may be catching at straws trying to raise this money but I will try anything to save my life.
“I couldn’t even put into words the pain me and my family feel right now, my fate lies in other people’s hands.
“I am waiting on hospitals and health professionals from the USA to get back to me. There are alternative hospitals that offer different care but it is so costly. It will be £300 just for my initial appointments and I need six of those.”
Kim's mum, Rachael Fletcher, 39, said: “It is a lot worse than we thought. At the moment we are just trying to save money for the life-saving treatment in America.
“I cannot put into words how much this has affected us all. It’s a race against time now and we need all the help possible.”
Kim hopes to complete her treatment with partner Darren and daughter Maya by her side - but the potential cost of thousands means the family need support to get there.
Their Go Fund Me page is hoping to fundraise £50,000 to fund the cost of the treatment.
You can donate and help Kim raise the money she needs for treatment in America HERE .
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