An Australian family has travelled more than 16,500km across the world in a desperate bid to save the life of their 16-year-old daughter.
Bella Betts from the NSW Central West has been battling metastatic osteosarcoma — a type of bone cancer that has spread to other parts of the body — for two-and-a half years.
After numerous chemotherapy treatments, four major lung surgeries, immunotherapy, radiation therapy and an entire shoulder reconstruction that left her with limited use of her left arm, the “incredible” high school student was informed by doctors in April there was nothing more they could do.
A large tumour in her lung remains, and there are no viable treatment options left in Australia, Bella’s aunt Bec Fraser told Yahoo News Australia.
Refusing to take no for an answer, the teen’s mum Stephanie Betts began researching other options and stumbled upon another Aussie family who had taken a loved one with the same type of disease to a medical clinic in Germany, and returned with no detectable cancer. There was hope.
Soon after contacting them, Bella was accepted into the treatment program and her parents, family and community members rallied together to raise enough money for the trip and medical bills — which continue to stack up.
“They needed to all travel together because the impact of separating the family during all these treatments has been monumental,” Ms Fraser said, adding a good friend offered to pay for all five return flights. “That is what kicked it all off and made it possible because the stress of separating the family again was huge.”
On May 10, Bella, her parents, and siblings 13-year-old Millani, and 10-year-old Felix, uprooted their lives in Millthorpe, NSW, and boarded a 27-hour flight to Düsseldorf in Germany. A photo on their GoFundMe, which has so far raised over $114,000, shows the smiling family standing in front of the airport with their luggage in hand.
Treatment has been 'confronting'
The family of five has moved into an apartment near the medical clinic and all three children are doing their schooling remotely for the next six weeks. While Bella is doing well, the experience has been “confronting”, Ms Fraser said, describing the treatment as “really involved".
The “pioneering therapy” incorporates chemotherapy, immunotherapy and nutrient infusions alongside hyperthermic treatment, which will heat Bella’s body to kill cancerous cells without causing damage, she explained.
“It’s been overwhelming,” Ms Fraser told Yahoo, referring to her teenage niece. “You can imagine the apprehension of being in a foreign country and foreign hospital where the main language isn’t English. Everything is daunting so they’re doing simple things like going for walks in the sunshine.”
Bella’s oncology team in Australia has sent over all reports the medical clinic may need, and now the “very, very grateful” Betts family are waiting to see how it goes.
Bella 'misses being a teenager'
Bella, who loves swimming and competed in regionals earlier this year with her one arm, “just misses being a teenager,” Ms Fraser said. “She just wants to be a kid, go to school, do all the things… hang out with her friends … make the most of life.”
The aunt said she hopes for her niece to return “cancer free” and that her journey helps “pave the way for this treatment to be brought to Australia”. “To start the process of that would be incredible,” she added.
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