Fundraisers help Okanagan family battling throat cancer

Jennifer Burton raised over $5,300 for her brother-in-law through massage fundraiser last weekend.

In October, after feeling ill for several months, Carlos Thomas was finally diagnosed: Stage IV throat cancer.

Because Carlos and his wife Jocelyn are both self-employed small business owners in Vernon, they — like many Canadians — are more vulnerable to personal and financial crises as a result of an unexpected illness. Hearing this, Vernon sprung into action. A GoFundMe page was launched and various fundraisers began springing up throughout the community.

Related: Vernon rallies around family battling throat cancer news

Related: Massage fundraiser already making a difference

Jocelyn’s sister, Jennifer Burton raised over $5,300 at her much-anticipated massage fundraiser last weekend. With a total of about 75 people donating to her cause, all massages were booked in advance and all baked goods were purchased. She also said that one person anonymously donated $1,000 and donations are still trickling in.

“It was far more than I ever thought I’d raise. It was so amazing and so many people showed up,” said Burton. “They are both so moved. Every time I talk to my sister she says that she’s just grateful for all the support and that it’s helping more than people know.”

Unfortunately, surgeons in Canada deemed the tumour inoperable so Carlos, who immigrated to Canada from Mexico 14 years ago, sought alternative treatment back in Mexico. He relocated on Nov. 18 from VJH to a hospital Mexico City to meet with an oncology specialist.

“The doctor said that he could do the surgery based on the scans from Oct. 28 but when he finally went down and got new scans, they found out that it severely progressed into late-stage four and now they consider it inoperable as well.”

FedEx did not allow Carlos’ biopsy to reach his doctors in Mexico, so he is currently waiting for doctors to do a biopsy in hospital before deciding the best course of treatment.

“Even though we have only been here a week, it feels like forever. I know it’s still faster than the treatment in Canada but yet it feels very long. Carlos just wants to start chemo ASAP,” wrote Jocelyn on the gofundme page, where she often gives updates.

“It’s been a really frustrating month because it feels like we’ve been stuck in the same spot we were when we found out about the cancer a month ago in terms of treatment,” said Burton. “But because they’re paying out of pocket in Mexico, the fundraising has made a huge difference and has gone a long way already. I had no idea of the sort of support that we’d receive but want everyone to know that we still have lots of hope for him and we’re just really grateful for everyone’s generosity.”

Creative Concepts Salon and Spa also hosted Cuts for Carlos last week and Valley Direct Foods has also launched a campaign to help the family where, from now until Dec. 31, 10 per cent of food ordered using code: CARLOS18 will go towards supporting the Thomas’.

For those who want to donate via the GoFundMe me, it can be located by searching Carlos’s Rally Against Cancer. The page has raised over $15,000 of their $25,000 goal as of Thursday afternoon.

Related: Vernon local joins B.C. Cancer Foundation Board of Directors

Related: Kelowna family rallies support for prostate cancer

Related: B.C. boy battles rare cancer as community rallies

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The news was exacerbated as the couple are both self-employed. (Photos by Stephanie Lauren Photography & Design)

Jocelyn’s sister Jennifer Burton hosted a massage fundraiser this weekend in support of the family. (Photo Contributed)

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