Michele Trapiche of Manchester, England, and Claire Graham of Dublin, Ireland, met in an online support group and quickly found out they had both recently been diagnosed with the same disease—triple-negative breast cancer. Triple-negative breast cancer is usually aggressive and fast-growing, making time and treatment valuable for both Michele and Claire.
In 2016, Michele was given the all-clear and told she was cancer-free. But Claire’s cancer continued to worsen despite treatment. In late 2016, as she was supposed to begin the last phase of her treatments, she began getting headaches and was referred for an MRI. The MRI showed that the cancer had travelled to her brain, and a later check-up in early 2017 found another tumor in her breast.
The situation was only worsened by the information that her son, one-year-old Harley, had retinoblastoma, a type of eye cancer. They learned about his diagnosis just three months after Claire’s, so she was undergoing chemotherapy and also looking after her young child, who was dealing with treatments of his own and a new prosthesis, all at the same time.
Claire’s doctor, who she travelled to see in London, recommended she be treated with Pembrolizumab and then Avastin. But Pembrolizumab was not available in Dublin, where she lived. It would cost her £85,000 to pay for the drugs herself and have them shipped in.
Thinking of her own daughter and wanting Claire’s son to live a long, full life and know his mother, Michele started a fundraising page for Claire’s cancer treatments.
“Thanks to my treatment, I have more time to spend with my daughter,” Michele said, “And I want to make sure Harley knows his mum.”
Both Michele and Claire were shocked to find such an outpouring of love and support from people on the internet. Michele successfully raised over £50,000 in just one week (roughly $65,000).
The fundraiser closed at the end of April 2017 with £86,465 raised by 2142 supporters. That amount was 101% of the goal of £85,000.
Unfortunately, Claire passed away on May 29th, 2017, just a month after the completion of the fundraiser.
A small portion of the money has gone toward Claire’s funeral and a fund for Harley’s medical bills, but the bulk has been donated to two charities, specifically for triple-negative breast cancer research, and the hospice program that cared for Claire in her last weeks of life.
“It was my privilege to be part of this fundraising campaign for Claire,” says Michele. “And whilst it was too late to help her, the money donated to the various causes are her legacy, and I know she would be proud of what we achieved.”
We wish the best to Claire’s family and to Michele and her family. Rest in peace, Claire.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?