Family and friends of a Delaware County woman receiving treatment for cancer have scheduled a benefit to raise funds to pay for her medical expenses.
The “Donna Mae Day Chili Cook-off Cancer Fund Benefit” is planned for Saturday, Nov. 7, from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the Fraternal Order of Eagles 376 to raise funds on behalf of Donna Leasure Ralph, who has Stage 4 colon cancer. The club is located at 127 E. William St. in Delaware.
The benefit will feature music, a raffle, a 50/50 drawing, country store and other events. Those interested in entering their chili recipe in the cook-off should contact Sarah at 740-816-3097, or Carrie at 740-262-7981.
The event is open to the public.
According to her sister, Darlene Bettinger, Ralph, a single mother of four and grandmother of seven, was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer on Oct. 21, 2013, and doctors determined that the disease had spread to other organs and her lymph nodes.
“Donna did not have medical insurance or a bank account and was forced to leave her job that she enjoyed as a waitress because of all of the health problems that were now surrounding her,” Bettinger wrote in an email to The Gazette. “Her doctors said that it was not safe to remove the large mass in her colon, so Donna started chemo treatments in hopes that it would shrink the smaller tumors and also shrink the large one in the colon.”
Bettinger shared that Ralph’s physician began a series of aggressive chemo therapy treatments, but had to cease after a series of complications arose, including low white blood cell count and the enlargement of a parathyroid that caused increased levels of calcium and parathyroid hormones that could result in renal failure or a coma.
“Donna’s chemo treatments were stopped for two weeks before the parathyroid was removed and for two months after her surgery,” Bettinger wrote. “A scan followed and showed that the mass in her colon had grown and the cancer had also grown in lymph nodes in her back while she was off the chemo.”
Bettinger noted that Ralph’s doctor then began treating her with a combination of medicine that at first resulted in some improvement, but did not produce a lasting effect.
“Donna continued with the same combination of drugs for three more cycles (three months) with another scan planned for the end of December (2014),” Bettinger wrote. “The scan on Dec. 29, 2014, was discouraging. The cancer had found a way around the treatment and was growing. The lymph nodes in her back, which are supposed to be the size of a pea, were now the size of a golf ball. The mass in her colon has also grown.”
Another round of treatment with a new drug did not result in any improvement, either, according to Bettinger.
“Donna’s prognosis at the beginning of her treatment was six months to a year without treatment,” Bettinger wrote. “The average prognosis for cancer patients with her condition is 30 months. Her prognosis at the end of August was less than six months. She is registered with hospice at this time to manage her pain. Please keep Donna and her family in your prayers as they face this next step.”
Despite her illness, Ralph is making an effort to remain positive, Bettinger noted.
“Donna tries to stay in good spirits, for her family’s sake, as she deals daily with accepting the fact that she will never be in remission or cured, for it is now time to make her final arrangements,” Bettinger wrote. “Her family is hoping to lift her spirits by making her days as enjoyable and comfortable as possible.”