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Buying Time For Sarah This Christmas

Lauren Briggs

All that 37 year old Canberra mum Sarah McGoram wants for Christmas is $11,000.

Now, don’t choke on your coffee. It’s really not that much to ask for when put into context. $11,000 will mean that Sarah and her family and friends have raised a total of $100,000. $100,000 will buy Sarah one year of cancer treatment. Only one year. See, I told you that it really is not that much to ask for.

In 1996 Sarah was diagnosed with Gastro Intestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST). GIST is a rare disease, with no known cure and is most commonly found in people aged 50 – 70 years old. Sarah was only 18 when she was diagnosed and she was given one year to live; amazingly though, she has fought GIST for almost 20 years now.

During these years she became a primary school teacher, played rugby union locally for the Uni-Norths Owls, met and married her husband Tom, and became a mum to her son, George, now 9.

Since her diagnosis, Sarah has spent 250 days in hospital, had 40 blood transfusions, more than 60 CT scans, and 6 major operations. None of these treatments provided a cure; they simply treated the symptoms while she waited for an effective drug to be developed.

Over the last 10 years Sarah has been on a series of drug treatments that have slowed the development of new tumors and again, these treatments have given her time but not a cure.

They were funded by Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS), but the drugs lose effectiveness over time and further drug treatment will not be funded. Sarah’s new drug treatment options come at an average cost of $280 per day, which has forced Sarah and Tom to privately raise $100,000 for one year of ongoing treatment.

To assist with this, Sarah’s family have set up an online fundraiser, the ‘Buy Time for Sarah’ campaign, which phenomenally raised almost $50,000 in a single week. Until now Sarah has kept her diagnosis and treatment somewhat private, however the limited treatment options available to her now has forced her to make her fight public.

“We were both very hesitant about fundraising,” says Sarah, “we were hesitant to burden people with our problem, or to ask for help – but we realised that to beat this we were going to need wider support. We’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. It’s given us a fresh perspective on what might be possible and a much needed injection of hope” says Sarah.

Support has come from the local Canberra community and across the world, but by far, Sarah’s biggest supporter is her son, George.

“When we talked to George about my cancer last year he calmly replied, ‘Well cancer is bad, but it’s good that it’s a slow growing cancer. Now the doctors just need to find a medicine to make it go away so you don’t have to keep cutting the tumors out. Once they do that then everything will be fine! Don’t you think Mummy – that sounds do-able,’” says Sarah. “At 8 years old, he got it in one. It is as simple as that. All we need is time for the doctors to develop a drug that makes the cancer go away.

“One of my doctors from twenty years ago walked past me recently and was shocked to see me,” says Sarah. “He looked at me, turned to his team of registrars and said, ‘This young lady has ridden the wave of medical research and is winning’. The race is getting closer than I’d like, but winning is the only option. I have been fighting for 20 years and I will not stop. My family and I have all learned that you have to make your own meaning and not wait for it to find you. We live each week like it’s our last, because it could be.”

The ‘Buy Time for Sarah’ campaign itself only has one more week itself to run, closing on the 31st of December. One more week to raise $11,000 to buy one year of treatment for Sarah and give her the most precious present of all: time.

If you wish to help out, details can be found at the online fundraiser  or at the Facebook group.

Lauren Briggs

Lauren Briggs is Canberra writer. She's studying a Masters of Creative Writing at the University of Canberra, and writes both short and long fiction. In her free time she enjoys buying more books than she can ever hope to read and following the Brumbies and Raiders. She's on twitter @lozbriggs and blogs at More about the Author

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