'Angels' lift Bulli fighter Lisa's spirits

When Leah Dawson set up an online fund-raiser for her sick friend, Lisa O'Connell, she never imagined the $40,000 target would be reached in just 44 hours.

Donations and messages of support poured in for the Bulli resident from family, friends and strangers for the Saving Lisa campaign (mycause.com.au/page/savinglisa), which was launched in early May.

One anonymous donor gave $5000 to the campaign, which really took off after it was shared on Facebook. To date, almost $60,000 has been raised to cover the spiralling medical expenses the 36-year-old faces after a four-year battle with cancer.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2010, Lisa has endured a mastectomy, seven rounds of chemotherapy and five weeks of radiation. The cancer has spread and she has received radiation on her eyes, her spine and her brain, plus her ovaries have been removed.

This week, Lisa said she felt physically and emotionally "drained" from the ongoing treatment, yet her spirits had been buoyed by the amazing support.

"I'm currently going through chemotherapy to boost my chances of keeping well but after four years of treatment I'm exhausted, frustrated and very weak," she said.

"My greatest support has been my family, my fiance, Richard, and my circle of girlfriends - they are my angels and my friend Leah is the star angel."

Donations are still being taken online, Corrimal Rotary Club has added its support and the region's theatre community has also rallied around Lisa, who has starred in Illawarra and statewide theatre productions.

Wollongong theatre company Moonglow Productions will dedicate the opening night (July 4) of Legally Blonde at WIN Entertainment Centre to Lisa, with the audience asked to wear pink and make a gold coin donation.

"I'm overwhelmed by the support - I don't know how people can afford to be sick if they don't have this kind of support," Lisa said. "It means I can pay for the expenses that have been building up and that my medical team now has more treatment options to choose from."

Leah and Lisa only met four years ago but their bond is clear.

"We have a really close group of friends and we wanted Lisa to know that while there's not much we can say, there are some things we can do to help," Leah said.

"Since diagnosis, Lisa's out-of-pocket expenses are in excess of $35,000 and rising every day, and so we created the fund-raiser so she didn't need to worry about that."

Lisa's parents, Denise and John, and younger sister Lauren have also been humbled by the level of support.


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