We are making this heartfelt plea as a family on behalf of our inspirational and beautiful 37 years young daughter, sister and wife Mari, to raise funds to privately pay for a proven, life-saving and life prolonging treatment for her stage 4 bowel cancer, which the NHS England has refused to fund for her, despite its availability and clinical efficacy. Mari has been bravely battling stage 4 bowel cancer since January 2015, which unfortunately has lately recurred in 2020, and is now, devastatingly, incurable. Although it can’t be cured, it can be controlled with a medication called Cetuximab.
Mari was a dedicated NHS doctor who had worked tirelessly caring for others but unfortunately now when she needs treatment for her own illness, she has been let down by the very institution she held so dear to her heart. This is why we need to ask for help and support for her life.
THE FULL STORY
Our world was turned upside down when in 2015, our full-of-life Mari was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer, completely out of the blue, at the meagre age of 31. Despite this devastating news and severity of her illness, she refused to give in, and courageously endured a long and extensive treatment over the next three and a half years, including four very difficult and painful major abdominal operations, in addition to 80 cycles of a combination of gruelling chemotherapy and immunotherapy (Cetuximab).
In 2018, we were elated to be told that her perseverance and determination had paid off, she was cancer-free and her treatment can stop. At this second chance, her selfless nature and compassion to care for others reached new heights, and with this newly-driven determination and a passion to help others, she got back to working full-time for the NHS within mere few months of completing her treatment. She started to rebuild her life and as she worked in the fertility unit, she found new happiness in helping patients with infertility, even though the cancer treatment had taken away her own ability to have children. She would treat every patient as if they were her own relatives and her happiness would know no bounds when she would be able to successfully help desperate couples. She even risked her life and worked through the COVID pandemic, and even contracted it herself.
She remained in complete remission for two years during which she fought back to be her usual full-of-life self. Devastatingly, on a routine surveillance scan, just before Christmas 2020, we were told that her cancer has recurred, and worst yet, it was now unfortunately incurable. To say it was like a bomb going off is an understatement, we were all numb with shock and disbelief and absolutely heartbroken.
Mari’s treatment had been so effective the first-time round that her medical team recommended the same treatment again. Unfortunately to further add to the despair and the devastation of being told she had incurable cancer at the age of 37, she was dealt the brutal blow, that despite the recommendations of several well-renowned professors and oncology experts that Cetuximab use is beneficial in her case and could significantly prolong her life or even put her back into remission, it would not be provided on the NHS. This is because NHS England currently has an arbitrary rule that if a person ever had Cetuximab as part of treatment for bowel cancer in the past and is off it for more than six weeks, it cannot be funded by the NHS England again, despite its proven medical benefits. Worst still, this drug is freely available to patients in similar situations throughout the rest of the UK, and this discriminatory rule specifically applies only in England.
This meant that we as a family were faced with the horrible dilemma of deciding whether to proceed with a substandard treatment for her cancer, or to try to self-fund privately for the Cetuximab. We were just not prepared to give up on Mari’s health, when we knew that there is a drug available with proven benefits, that had worked for her previously.
We therefore have been paying privately for Cetuximab but the costs are extortionately expensive. After seven cycles of treatment, we were very relieved that her scans showed a good response with regression of disease, again demonstrating that Cetuximab use is definitely helpful and beneficial in her case. This treatment however could go on for a number of years, but unfortunately with limited finances and without help and kind donations, this will not be sustainable long-term solely by us. On top of the extra costs of Cetuximab, as a direct result of the gruelling chemotherapy Mari very sadly had to retire from her job as she is too ill to work, meaning that she has lost all her income also, adding to the financial challenges and worry at a time when it is hardly conceivable to have any additional worries.
Despite the gravity of the situation that she finds herself in and her own ill health, her compassion and care still shine through, as she remains determined not only to fight for her own self, but for others affected by this unfair rule, by trying to get this discriminatory rule quashed. We have raised this issue with our very helpful and proactive local MP who is bringing this to the attention of the Health Secretary and the NHS England. This however can potentially take a long time to change, especially due to the current COVID pandemic. She unfortunately doesn’t have the liberty to wait for such a long period, as she requires the treatment now.
We would be extremely grateful and eternally thankful if you could please help us raise at least £25,000 which will help us cover the immediate shortfall in Mari's Cetuximab treatment costs (any funds raised above this will continue to cover the ongoing costs). We would be immensely humbled and would greatly appreciate any donation, no matter how small, and any support for this worthy cause.
Please help our Mari who has dedicated her life to care for so many, to get the care and treatment she now needs and so deserves. Please may we also request for this campaign to be shared as widely as possible on social media and amongst your friends and families, not only to help raise funds for Mari, but also to raise the awareness of the cancer drug funding issues and NHS inequalities. We really thank you all for sparing your precious time to read this plea, and thank you all in advance from the bottom of our hearts.
Love from Mari and all her family.
Fundraising team (4)
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