Northern Ireland

US singer Kelly Rowland boosts Co Antrim woman's cancer drug fundraising campaign

Julie Lillis (37), from Larne in Co Antrim, said she has been left "floored" by the generosity of people after £80,000 was raised for her within a week so she an access a promising new cancer drug which could help extend her life after she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer
Julie Lillis (37), from Larne in Co Antrim, said she has been left "floored" by the generosity of people after £80,000 was raised for her within a week so she an access a promising new cancer drug which could help extend her life after she Julie Lillis (37), from Larne in Co Antrim, said she has been left "floored" by the generosity of people after £80,000 was raised for her within a week so she an access a promising new cancer drug which could help extend her life after she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer

AMERICAN singer Kelly Rowland has helped a Co Antrim woman, battling an aggressive form of breast cancer, reach her fundraising goal so she can access a promising new drug.

Julie Lillis set up a GoFundMe page with the aim of raising £80,000 so she can privately access the drug, not yet available on the NHS, to help prolong her life.

And on Friday the former Destiny's Child star added her weight to the fundraising campaign by donating £28,000 in the names of her two young sons, Titan and Noah Weatherspoon.

Ms Lillis, who hit her target within a week, says she has been "floored" by the level of support.

The Larne woman now hopes she will be able to access the new drug to help her fight triple negative breast cancer.

Diagnosed last September with the aggressive form of the disease, it develops in about 1 in 5 women diagnosed.

The type of breast cancer does not have receptors for hormones, or HER2, and means treatment with hormonal or targeted therapy will not work.

The 37-year-old, who works as a production manager in the film and TV industry, has already undergone 15 gruelling rounds of chemotherapy and four weeks ago, had a double mastectomy.

She is now awaiting further scans to see if the cancer has spread.

US singer Kelly Rowland donated £28,000, on behalf of her sons, Titan and Noah, to a fundraising campaign for Co Antrim woman Julie Lillis, who is battling triple negative breast cancer and who needs to access a promising new drug, which is not yet available on the NHS. Picture by Ian West/PA Wire
US singer Kelly Rowland donated £28,000, on behalf of her sons, Titan and Noah, to a fundraising campaign for Co Antrim woman Julie Lillis, who is battling triple negative breast cancer and who needs to access a promising new drug, which is not yet US singer Kelly Rowland donated £28,000, on behalf of her sons, Titan and Noah, to a fundraising campaign for Co Antrim woman Julie Lillis, who is battling triple negative breast cancer and who needs to access a promising new drug, which is not yet available on the NHS. Picture by Ian West/PA Wire

She found out she was a carrier of the BRCA1 mutant gene when she was 16. She was tested after she had lost an aunt to breast cancer and her mother survived two diagnoses.

In August 2020, after finding a lump on her breast, she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.

By October it had spread and she was told her life expectancy had greatly reduced.

Despite this the same month Julie completed a 300km charity cycle around Northern Ireland to the five breast cancer centres, raising awareness of the disease and £10,000 for cancer charities.

Following her mastectomy last month, it was found that the cancer had started to grow again in the breast tissue.

With treatment options limited, Ms Lillis sought the advice of a specialist in London who informed her about a new drug, a Parp Inhibitor, which has seen promising clinical trials.

However, as it has not yet been approved for use by the NHS, she would have to self-fund the £80,000 needed to pay for the drug for one year.

With the help of friends she set up a GoFundMe page on June 19 and within a week had reached the target.

Last Friday, the fundraising campaign received a massive boost with a £28,000 ($38,000) donation made on behalf of Titan and Noah Weatherspoon - who are the children of US singer, Kelly Rowland.

The 40-year-old performer, who is married to entertainment industry manager Tim Weatherspoon.

As of last night, more than £91,000 had been raised.

Ms Lillis said she had been left "floored" by people's generosity.

"This whole cancer journey has been a roller-coaster of emotions," she said.

"Some days are tougher than others but I am not giving up, not when there are still other options to investigate."

She added: "The whole week, there wasn't a day I wasn't crying about the kindness of people. I have just been floored by it.

"I have been really surprised by some of the donations made. I never expected that my fundraiser would win such support from beyond Northern Ireland.

"Whether it is £5 or £500 I am so thankful for everybody's kindness and support. It has just been unbelievable."

The next step will be an appointment with the consultant to begin the process of accessing the drug.

"I am anxiously waiting for it to hurry up and get going," she said.

"I am hoping in the next two weeks.

"The London doctor hopes it could work well for me. It could hopefully give me a life. Give me longer. I am hoping to outlive the statistics."

***Donations can be made at https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-get-lifesaving-treatment-for-julie?