Karen Black Seeks Donations to Help Pay for Experimental Ampullary Cancer Treatment

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Ampullary Cancer

Anyone who has had to battle cancer knows that it tends to do damage to your body. Not to mention the fact that some treatments for the disease can have the same effects. The treatment(s) also can damage a person’s wallet as some are not covered by insurance and the longer the need for treatments, the more expenses a patient can go through.

For Oscar-nominated actress Karen Black, she has been fighting against ampullary cancer for more than two years. The rare cancer has taken its toll on Black and though it seemed she might actually beat it, her condition has worsened.

With few options left to her, as well as funds, the only hope that seems available is an experimental treatment in Europe. Since the treatment is not covered by insurance, the actress has turned to crowd funding in hopes to raise the necessary funds.

In November 2010, the 73-year-old actress was diagnosed with ampullary cancer. Since then, she has had treatments up to the point where she was told that she no longer had cancer. Unfortunately, this was only temporary as her husband, Stephen Eckelberry, acknowledged that his wife’s health has deteriorated this year and that the cancer had returned in full force. He also explained that Black is so weak that she mostly stays in bed and weighs 96 pounds, down from when she weighed 156.

With her health continuing to get worse, Eckelberry said that “Karen has been confronting the fact that she would die soon if she didn’t do something.” Being that their funds are almost gone and few options left to them, Eckelberry decided to start the website GoFundMe, which is a campaign called “Help Karen Beat Cancer” in an attempt to raise funds for the only treatment that might help her.  It is a two-month cancer treatment that is in Europe and experimental.

The website was launched on March 14th and Eckelberry explained the reason for it was that since her diagnosis, the couple has exhausted their money and needed a way to come up with funding.

He writes in the campaign “So here is the big question: Why would someone like Karen need money? Yes, she was an actress in movies, but most of the high-paying work dwindled out many years ago. She has a modest pension and medical insurance (thank goodness), but as anyone knows who has fought cancer, that is not enough. We have nothing left. And the European treatment is not covered by insurance.”

With the goal of reaching $32,000 for her treatment, the campaign has been a success raising more than $36,000 as of Tuesday.

A message was posted on the website saying, “Everybody thank you so much for the donations and kind thoughts. Karen and are touched beyond belief. It’s so great to know she can make this trip. I promise to keep everybody updated. Any additional money that is raised beyond our goal will go towards my going with her. THIS IS AMAZING THANK YOU SO MUCH.”

Eckelberry mentions that doctors have given their approval for Black to undergo the experimental procedure, though he has not mentioned details regarding the treatment.

He wrote, “Karen’s family physician of many years called us two weeks ago and told us of success she has had with several of her patients doing a treatment in Europe as part of a clinical study there. I cannot go into more details now, but I promise I will in the future as we get involved. I will say that this is a medically supervised program and it targets Karen’s kind of cancer. In fact, we personally know two of the patients that have had remarkable recoveries from cancer there. So we know it works, and right now it is her best and only shot.”

Since being diagnosed in 2010, the actress has had a third of her pancreas removed and in mid-2011, was told that she was disease-free. However, in December 2011, Black had to have a tumor removed and had to undergo two operations this year since the return of the cancer.

Her form of cancer, known as ampullary cancer, is “rare and similar to pancreatic and bile duct cancers.” According to the Mayo Clinic, “the cancer is located where the bile duct and pancreatic duct meet and can block bile from flowing through the bile ducts and into the small intestine, causing the skin and eyes to turn yellow (jaundice) and other symptoms.”

Black received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 1970’s “Five Easy Pieces.” Though she has steadily worked for more than 40 years, she is best known for being in classic films such as “Nashville,” “Airport 1975” and “The Day of the Locust.” In 2003, she appeared in Rob Zombie’s horror film “House of 1000 Corpses.”

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