By Richard Lenti
Actress Karen Black’s online fundraising efforts to help pay for her upcoming cancer treatment has been an overwhelming success.
Less than two weeks after launching an online campaign on the website GoFundMe.com, the 73-year-old actress has surpassed her goal of $32,000 to pay for a trip to Europe to undergo an experimental two-month cancer treatment.
“Karen and I are touched beyond belief,” her husband Steven Eckelberry wrote in a post Monday. “THIS IS AMAZING THANK YOU SO MUCH.”
Best known for her 1970 Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in “Five Easy Pieces,” Black has been battling cancer since she was diagnosed with ampullary cancer in November, 2010.
She immediately had a third of her pancreas removed, Eckelberry wrote on the fundraising website. Following extensive chemotherapy and radiation, she was declared disease-free.
“By spring 2012 she was doing a lot better and could walk around and was almost normal. But in June 2012, the cancer came back – and it started spreading – one near her lungs and one in her lower back,” Eckelberry wrote
After additional treatment, including two operations to freeze a tumor in her lower back that had grown to four pounds, Black was left completely bedridden. Although the cancer was minimalized, past experience told the couple it wouldn’t be long before it returned.
Black has reportedly lost a third of her body weight and weighs 96 pounds, down from 156 before she was diagnosed with cancer.
“Part of the problem,” wrote Eckelberry, “is that missing a pancreas she doesn’t digest food, and also chemo makes it very difficult to eat.”
When the couple heard about the success of an experimental procedure in Europe as part of a clinical cancer treatment, they decided it was Black’s last and best chance at beating the odds. But they would have to move fast before Black was too weak to travel.
“Karen has been confronting the fact that she would die soon if she didn’t do something,” said Eckleberry.
The actress, her husband explained, now lives on a modest pension; the high paying work having dwindled out years ago. And though she has medical insurance, it won’t cover the European treatment.
The couple have used up all their savings keeping Black alive, so they turned to the internet.
Since word of her March 14 posting on the website GoFundMe.com spread, Black has handily surpassed her $32,000 goal with contributions from more than 800 people. On the campaign’s webpage, Eckelberry thanked everyone for their donations and their kind thoughts.
“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,” he wrote.
Donations will cover travel and living expenses for two months in addition to the cost of treatment. At last tally, more than $43,000 had been raised.
In addition to “Five Easy Pieces,” Black’s credits also include “Easy Rider” and “Airport 1975.”
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