‘It was one big whirlwind’: artist on being unable to access treatment

When Kerry visited her oncologist about her cancer treatment, the words that came out of his mouth still echo in her mind.

Unable to bring anyone to her appointment due to Covid restrictions, she scrambled to take notes as the doctor told her there was nothing more he could offer. The clinical trial that provided the treatment she needed had been cancelled due to the pandemic.

He said her best option was to crowdfund to get money to go privately, and without this, she would only have a year to live.

“I was pretty stunned to be told I only had a year to live and there was no treatment available. It was one big whirlwind: your head starts spinning and you cannot think,” she said.

“I was trying to take notes as the oncologist was talking but it is difficult to take on board that sort of devastating information when you are on your own,” she added.

Since then, the artist and curator in her 50s set up a crowdfunding page and has raised tens of thousands to afford the help she needs. She was diagnosed with rare eye cancer five years ago, which spread to her liver at the end of August 2020.

“I had a laparoscopy and they found several small tumours in my liver that could not be removed by surgery,” she said.

Originally, a clinical trial offered an experimental treatment that had proven effective in some patients but because of Covid it was halted. The treatment is available privately for £40,000.

“I turned around and said to my oncologist, there is no way I could even afford one treatment and he said, ‘All I can suggest is that you crowdfund’… that was the end of the conversation,” Kerry said.

She said the news was “devastating” and came with the added stress of trying to raise money, which she eventually did. “I have had three treatments so far and it is working,” she said.

Her last visit for care was over a week ago and she has been told the tumours are dying but she needs further treatment to make sure every cell is dead. “I have to keep crowdfunding,” she said.

Kerry said she was surprised by the level of support she got through crowdfunding, “especially due to the pandemic and people losing their jobs”. She has been “amazed by people’s generosity”.

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