FIERCE, determined and a loyal friend are three of the ways Carmel Dawe is described as by her close mate Flip Nolen.
The Leeton pair have been strong friends for many years, with Flip now leading the charge to assist Carmel in what is the battle of her life.
Carmel is a mum to three children aged 17, 14 and seven. When she was 39 she was diagnosed with granulosa cell tumours (GCTs), which are a rare form of ovarian cancer.
GCTs are resistant to radiation and chemotherapy, so surgery has been the only practical option to date.
Carmel's cancer journey began in 2013 and since then it has been an ongoing rollercoaster that has involved numerous painful surgeries, treatment plans and expensive medication.
There was a five-year period where Carmel was in remission, but the tumours re-appeared.
In 2018, Carmel had radical abdominal surgery to remove numerous tumours, including a bowel resection, diaphragm stripping, and complete hysterectomy, hoping that tumours would not return to other places.
The radical procedure gave her 11 months until, in 2019, the cancer was found to be growing and spreading again.
Debilitating pain on a daily basis is something Carmel lives with as she continues to fight against this insidious disease.
Last year it was recommended Carmel start expensive immunotherapy treatments, which did appear to slow the growth of tumours.
However, the tumours have now stopped responding significantly to previous treatments and a scan in February showed growth in these tumours.
Carmel's options and treatments continue to be assessed regularly, but are expensive.
A new treatment she is on costs $3000 a month, which far exceeds her income and other financial commitments.
While Carmel continues to maintain a positive attitude, her diagnosis is a scary one. Time is of the essence and she continues to fight for her life.
With this in mind, Flip has started a Go Fund Me page to help raise vital money for Carmel's ongoing treatments, which are giving her more time with loved ones and, hopefully, giving her hope of defeating the cancer.
So far, close to $17,300 has been raised as a result of the online fundraiser.
I am grateful beyond words for the generosity of the community, friends and strangers alike, who have supported me further, in many different ways these last weeks.- Leeton's Carmel Dawe
"We have recently investigated treatment at the Gold Coast, but it has now been determined that it isn't going to be a good option for me," Carmel said.
"I met with a surgeon last week in Sydney and am travelling to Sydney this Friday (today) to determine whether he thinks he could carry out a very big operation to remove some of the larger tumours.
"If he thinks he cannot help me, or that surgery was too risky for any reason, then we may need to look at treatment options in America, where they have hundreds more immunotherapy and other treatment options.
"I am grateful beyond words for the generosity of the community, friends and strangers alike, who have supported me further, in many different ways these last weeks.
"I haven't felt such a morale boost for some time."
Flip said she wasn't surprised at the generosity being shown by the Leeton community, which is known to rally behind its own during tough times.
"I knew Carmel wasn't well, but not to this extent until the last few months," Flip said.
"I think this fundraiser has really helped Carmel in a mental capacity as well.
"She is blown away by the support and reading people's comments.
"The financial side is ongoing, but we're trying to help take some of that burden away. People can make a donation no matter how big or small. It all helps.
"Really, this is a life or death situation.
"Carmel is a very resilient person and a very giving person.
"She would give the shirt off her back to anyone who needed it. She's kind and considerate, a really loyal friend."
Residents wanting to donate to help Carmel in her ongoing fight can do so by visiting www.gofundme.com/f/please-help-carmel-dawe.
More information on her cancer journey can also be found at the above link.
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