ENGLEWOOD — Kellie Brown was living a fulfilling life as a nursing assistant and a newlywed in November 2011. She never imagined that in five months she would be engaged in a long, tiring battle with cancer.
Now, with finances drained and medical bills piling up, a local church is stepping in to help.
Gulf Cove United Methodist Church at 1100 McCall Road in Port Charlotte is hosting a fundraiser featuring a special benefit dinner, game show, bake sale and silent auction from 12:15 p.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 24.
“Mornings and evenings are the worst for me,” said Brown, who suffers from a rare form of leukemia called myleoproliferative disease. “I’m taking Jakafi (a cancer drug) twice a day since June, once in the morning and once at night. It makes me tired. I don’t move as much as I used to, and it affects my short-term memory, which doctors say might be due to too much stress.”
Brown said she is able to drop off and pick up her son, Ryan, from school.
She was referred to the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and started going in March.
“They said what I have is very rare,” she said. “They recommended a cancer specialist in Texas who may be able to help.”
The cancer treatments Brown is receiving are considered out of network for her health insurance through her husband’s company. Bills mounted up to $9,000 last year out of pocket, according to Kellie’s mother-in-law, Carol Brown.
“They can’t do anything, and it’s frustrating,” Carol said. “I called several companies and did research. Friends and family have done so much. I’ve taken over paying and funding into a savings account.”
Kellie’s in-laws are seasonal residents with homes in Ohio and Englewood. The rest of the family resides in Ohio.
“We’re struggling and family is there, but they can’t help forever,” Kellie said. “They’re all real supportive.”
Kim Fisackerly, who’s organizing the fundraiser, said a friend came to the church and discussed Brown’s condition.
“We usually see (the Browns) in church,” Fisackerly said. “We’re doing whatever we can do. We’re throwing it together as we go, and we’ll assess any possible future fundraisers after this one.”
Kellie said she still tries to go to church, but with her medication and the time of service, it becomes difficult.
“We don’t go as often as much as we used to,” she said. “Sundays just aren’t good for me.”
Brown said the Jakafi should be fine for now, as long as her condition doesn’t advance to another stage.
“I’m very happy and relieved that people are reaching out to help,” she said. “You feel appreciated and loved.”
For more information on the fundraiser, go to http://www.gulfcoveumc.com or call 941-697-1747.