A YOUNG Irish woman who has spent the past year in the US undergoing life-changing surgery may be forced to return home early because of a lack of funds to complete the procedure.
Mary Philbin (27), from Galway, was diagnosed with a very rare malignant tumour in her throat in 2005. After battling the cancer, she was left unable to eat or breathe without difficulty.
The former student must live on a diet of liquid foods as she can no longer swallow.
In late 2012, Mary's health deteriorated and she began aspirating into her lungs, leaving her further weakened.
Doctors had initially feared further surgery would not help her condition. However, Mary found a doctor in North Carolina who had had success with reconstructive throat surgery.
The family took out a loan and held fundraising events. They also approached the HSE for funds but they were turned down as the Treatment Abroad Scheme does not cover surgeries outside the EU and Switzerland.
Mary, who now lives in Blacklion, Co Cavan, went to the US in November 2012. She has since undergone three surgeries, but will need up to two more before the procedure is completed. However, this is now in jeopardy after the funds raised on her behalf ran out. The family are now desperately trying to raise $50,000 (€38,500) to meet the growing costs.
"This treatment is not available in Ireland and it was Mary's only hope, so we had to do it regardless," her mum Eileen said.
"Mary became ill over seven years ago and all our savings are gone. But we had to do it, this is her only chance and her last hope. If I have to sell my home to cover the cost, then that is what I will do," she added. "We have spent around $60,000 already and we've no idea how much it could cost in the end."
"All I can say is, having come this far and making it through the surgery and all the pain and suffering to date, I am willing to take on the surgeries ahead of me with both hands but the uncertainty of my financial situation is out of my reach and control," Mary said.
Anyone wishing to make a donation can give money to The Mary Philbin treatment fund at Bank of Ireland, Manorhamilton or via the Mary's Journey of Hope webpage.