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Cancer battle won't stop me giving Karis the chance to play like her pals; Mum's vow as she fights disease for second time in three years.

Byline: Brian McIver

WITH her wide grin and huge ginger curls, Karis Ferguson is full of fun - and full of courage.

And the five-year-old's mum Sarah is also an inspiration. Sarah works tirelessly to help her daughter cope with cerebral palsy - while battling cancer for the second time in three years.

Despite undergoing months of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, Sarah has launched a fundraising mission to get Karis to America for treatment which could help her walk properly.

The Dumbarton schoolgirl has suffered mobility problems all her life and, after seemingly endless tests, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP) earlier this year, while Sarah was undergoing treatment for her second bout of breast cancer.

In between treatment sessions for the killer disease, Karis's parents Sarah and Grant found out about pioneering surgery being performed at the St Louis Children's Hospital in Missouri, which has helped thousands of CP patients improve their mobility.

They are now putting all their time and energy into raising the money they need to send Karis there. After surviving three years of cancer hell, Sarah and Grant insist a matter of 4000 miles and pounds 45,000 will not get in the way of giving their daughter a chance of a better life.

Sarah, 38, said: "One of the things I've learned in the last few years is that the word 'No' is not in my vocabulary. We will make it happen because we need to and it can make a huge difference to Karis.

"It will make it much easier for her to walk and should mean she will be able to run around and play like her friends.

"Importantly, it will mean she won't get any worse - she will only get better.

"She has been so brave and determined throughout everything and we're going to do everything for her.

"I finish my treatment in March, so we are hoping to get out there by April. That means we have to do whatever it takes to get the funds raised in time.

"The one thing I have learned from my illness is that nobody knows what is in front of them and you do what you can, when you can."

The couple realised Karis had mobility problems after her first birthday when she was not hitting progress milestones.

Various specialists suggested conditions like dyspraxia or dystonia but the couple were convinced it was something more serious and could not accept the medical advice, which was just to wait.

Her parents were determined to make sure she had as normal an early life as possible and rejected wheelchairs and walking frames, using a modified toy pram as an aid. She can now walk, awkwardly, with splints.

The medical tests continued and then, when she was two and a half, the family's world was turned upside down when Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer. Sarah said: "Karis has helped me get through it. You just think of your daughter and you know you have to work your way through it because you have no other choice.

"She has been incredible, she is really helpful and looks after me. She is the perfect motivation to fight."

IT worker Grant, 42, said: "It has put an immense amount of strain on the family, with trying to find out what is wrong with your daughter and Sarah going through cancer treatment.

"She is an absolute inspiration.

"The way Sarah has handled everything, she is one in a million."

Sarah would be quick to deny charges of heroism, claiming any mother would do the same.

After a radical mastectomy, chemo and radiotherapy, Sarah successfully fought off the first bout of cancer.

Karis was then diagnosed with CP, where damage to the brain means that legs and joints don't operate properly and can become twisted.

They were offered hope for Karis in the shape of Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) pioneered by Dr TS Park in St Louis, Missouri. The procedure involves removing and testing affected nerves, and cutting off the damaged areas.

Meanwhile, in December last year, Sarah was shattered again when she developed cancer in her other breast.

The disease was, unusually, a different type of breast cancer.

The first eight months of this year were taken up with chemo, mastectomy and radiotherapy again, but the confirmation that Karis was approved for the treatment gave them all renewed hope and vigour.

Requiring pounds 45,000 to pay for travel and surgical fees, they started a fundraising campaign, teaming up with children's charity Tree of Hope.

That has included sponsored slims, bingo, bungee jumps, and Sarah herself completed a 5k run last month. elf She was back in Glasgow's Beatson cancer centre for another dose of Herceptin medicine the next day.

he "I should be putting my feet up," she admitted. "But I can take it easy once we've money raised and Karis is better.

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er. t "If there is something out there that can help my daughter, and I can help take away a problem, I want to do it "It's hard to say but you try to do all the things with your family now, while donate at now. ll le you still can' just in case. We are working as hard as I'm hoping target - that fantastic Christmas us."

for all of us.", we can to raise the money and we get nearer to our at would be a hristmas present s " s.

For more information donate to reach her www.sdr4karis.www.justgiving.

tion and to o help Karis r target, visit 4karis.org or ng.com/SDR4Karisu can also t h the 99 Appeal. You donate via text message at 70070 with code KARS99 and the amount. . SDR4Karis-.

CAPTION(S):

COURAGE 3 Mother and daughter Sarah and Karis Ferguson are facing major health battles together
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 17, 2011
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