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Karen Black cancer fundraiser takes off with crowd support

March 25, 2013|By Christie D'Zurilla
  • Karen Black, right, with Jack Nicholson and Lorna Thayer in the 1970 drama "Five Easy Pieces."
Karen Black, right, with Jack Nicholson and Lorna Thayer in the 1970 drama… (Columbia Pictures )

Actress Karen Black, who's been battling cancer for more than two years, has turned to the public for help to pay for an experimental treatment in Europe — and as of Monday afternoon, the crowdfunding plea was working.

The 73-year-old, Oscar-nominated as supporting actress in 1970's "Five Easy Pieces" with Jack Nicholson, has worked steadily for more than 40 years but is best known for her work in 1970s films including "Airport 1975," "The Day of the Locust" and "Nashville."

Diagnosed with ampullary cancer in November 2010, she immediately had a third of her pancreas removed, her husband, Stephen Eckelberry, said on the "Help Karen Beat Cancer" GoFundMe webpage, launched on March 14. After chemo, she was declared disease-free in mid-2011. 

It didn't last, he said. Surgery removed a small tumor in December of that year, but by the middle of last year the cancer had returned. She had two operations this year to minimize the cancer and is now "mostly bed-bound" and down to 96 pounds from 156. Eckelberry said they expect the disease to return, especially because his wife is too frail for chemo.

"Karen has been confronting the fact that she would die soon if she didn’t do something," her husband said. 

Through the website, they're asking for money to fund a two-month experimental treatment in Europe. He did not provide details of the treatment but promised more info "as we get involved."

"So here is the big question: Why would someone like Karen need money?" Eckelberry said. "Yes, she was an actress in movies, but most of the high-paying work dwindled out many years ago. She has a modest pension and medical insurance (thank goodness), but as anyone knows who has fought cancer, that is not enough."

The two have depleted their savings since Black was diagnosed, he said. "We have nothing left.  And the European treatment is not covered by insurance."

By 4:30 p.m. Monday the site had raised more than $20,000 from more than 350 people, toward a $22,000 goal.

See Black, below, as flight attendant Nancy Pryor in "Airport 1975."

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