Imagine being told it will cost $25,000 per treatment for any chance of saving your four-year-old from a brain tumour. And that the treatment is only available in Mexico.
This is the reality for a Canberra family, the Potts family, whose four-year-old daughter Annabelle is in the fight of her life.
The family has relocated to Mexico to buy time with their daughter with no assistance from the Australian Government or private health insurance.
It was five months ago that Annabelle’s Mum Kathie Potts noticed something odd.
“It started as sleep disturbances and night terrors,” she said.
Night terrors and behavioural changes progressed to limping; that’s when Kathie and her husband knew something was terribly wrong.
After tests, the family were told it was Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), which is an aggressive and difficult to treat brain tumour at the base of the brain. They were also told Annabelle’s tumour is also inoperable.
“We screamed and held each other,” said Kathie. “I just asked how long have we got and [the surgeon] said, 'With this type of tumour we talk about it in a matter of months'.”
With all Australian options exhausted, the Potts family have now relocated to Mexico to undergo a unique intra-arterial chemotherapy treatment combined with immunotherapy.
“It’s where they feed the chemotherapy drugs up through an artery in the groin, to help it get through the blood brain barrier,” Kathie explained.
However, hope is expensive. They expect Annabelle will need eight to 12 treatments, which she started this week. In total, the family could be looking at a medical bill of $300,000.
“She was under for around two and a half hours, Adam and I waited anxiously in the waiting room with William asleep in the pram,” Kathie said.
“Side effects to follow over the next few days include tiredness, severe headaches, vomiting and elevated temperatures, up to 39.9 degrees.”
The biggest obstacle for the family is not speaking Spanish. While the doctors speak some English, it is very hard to communicate and explain the medical procedures and ask questions as it is their second language.
“Even when we receive copies of the MRI reports, we need to send them back home to a friend to translate for us."
Annabelle will receive her next treatment in a fortnight.
The Canberra community has raised over $238,000 so far through the family's GoFundMe page, the Potts family hold out hope that they’ll reach $350,000 to cover the costs of the treatments.
You can help the Potts family by donating here.
Kristen Henry is one half of The Kristen and Wilko Show on MIX 106.3 in Canberra. Follow her adventures at kristenhenry.com.au.