Cancer sufferer in race for her life

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cancer girl DAILY NEWS Nine-year-old Rose-Leigh Usher suffers from a rare, aggressive cancer. Her family is appealing for donations towards the cost of a transplant to be done at Cape Town's Groote Schuur Hospital. Photo: Daily News

Durban - A Wentworth girl has until Thursday for her family to raise R500 000 for a life-saving bone marrow stem cell transplant.

Doctors have found a match in the US for nine-year-old Rose-Leigh Usher, who has a rare, aggressive cancer, hepatosplenic gamma-delta T-cell lymphoma. She was diagnosed last June and has been at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital since.

The tissue has been reserved for her until Thursday, and the family in Wentworth have so far raised about R200 000 as the community has rallied behind her. The fund needs another R300 000 in two days.

Not only is the cancer rare, it is also described as being a generally incurable form of lymphoma.

Dr Yasmin Goga, the hospital’s paediatric haematology consultant, said Rose-Leigh had completed six of seven planned cycles of intensive chemotherapy. Goga said the two longest survivors were those who had received bone marrow transplants.

“In patients who have had chemotherapy alone, the longest survival was 16 months, with most patients dying from the disease within six months to a year,” she explained.

There are no South African donors with a match on the South African Bone Marrow Registry, but Goga said there was an umbilical cord stem cell unit with a good match in the US. It had been reserved until February 28.

If Rose-Leigh’s family could not raise the funds in time, she would lose her chance of having the transplant because there would be no other match available, Goga said.

“She is very fortunate to have an umbilical cord stem cell unit that is closely matched. However this is in a cord stem cell bank in the US, and we require R500 000 to purchase the unit,” she said.

“The State will not cover the cost of purchasing the international cord stem cell unit

.”

Rosemary Usher, a nursing sister at Wentworth Hospital, said her daughter had been healthy before she felt abdominal pains in June last year. Hospital visits followed to Wentworth, King Edward VIII and Albert Luthuli hospitals.

Rose-Leigh, who was in grade 3 last year, has not been to school since June and desperately requires the funds so the Groote Schuur hospital in Cape Town can perform the transplant.

“The hospital wants the money upfront. We don’t have a lot of time to raise the money, but we have faith that the money will be raised,” Usher said.

“We would like to ask anybody and everybody who is kind-hearted to make a pledge of, at least, R100 for Rose-Leigh’s trust fund for the transplant to happen. Please ask friends, colleagues and people in your community to help,” she said.

“We need you.”

Rose-Leigh has four siblings, a 24-year-old brother, 18-year-old twin sisters, and a three-year-old brother, but none of them was a match.

“She was so healthy before she was hospitalised,” said Rosemary. “She had been dancing at the dance academy at the community hall, and when she first told me of the pains in her body, I thought it was just her being tired, but when they continued, we went to hospital... I have never seen any of my children in such pain before.”

In recent weeks members of the public, businesses and schools have worked together in fund-raising for Rose-Leigh since a donor match was found. Last Friday, a band of popular Durban comedians staged a show titled “Have a laugh – Save a life” at the Bat Centre.

South Durban Club Hip-hop Palace hosted an event on Saturday.

Wentworth High School, Grosvenor Girls’ High School, Austerville Primary School and other schools held fund-raising drives, including “civvies” days, cake sales, cancer awareness campaigns and raffles.

Office staff from businesses in Durban have also raised funds through internal raffles. A number of business people have made anonymous donations to the trust account.

South Africans abroad have also donated. Donations can be made to: Rose-Leigh Emily Usher Trust, Standard Bank current account number 051707772. The branch code is 043326.

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