The family of a young mum with cervical cancer has launched an appeal to raise £100,000 for life-saving treatment.
Alexandra Hodson, 26, was just 25 when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in June 2018, following her first routine smear test.
She has been denied immunotherapy on the NHS, a treatment which her family believes could help shrink the inoperable tumour that has spread to her pelvic wall.
Immunotherapy is a therapy that boosts the immune system to help it recognise and fight cancer cells.
Now her sister, Nicola Hodsonwants to raise the cash to pay for the treatment privately.
She said: “We were told that she wasn’t an exceptional enough case for the immunotherapy.
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“Obviously we don’t agree with that and we’re quite disappointed.
“I didn’t like the idea that there was an avenue available for her, and for us not to pursue it.”
Alexandra, from Wesham, had begun to notice unusual symptoms before she was diagnosed.
Nicola, 35, who works at Springfields Fuels in Salwick, said: “Alexandra was having the contraceptive injections every three months and was having symptoms such as pain during intercourse, bleeding after intercourse and bleeding between periods.
“She told the nurse but was told that it was normal. Now she (Alexandra) is guilt-tripping herself, asking herself why she didn’t do more, but you don’t want to question it too much, do you?”
Alexandra’s smear last year then showed abnormal cells and she underwent a colposcopy at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
Nicola, a mum-of-two, added: “She was told she was fine but to come back in 12 months time. She questioned it because it seemed like a long time, but was told she had to go back to her GP and start at the beginning again.
“When she did go back to the GP surgery, a female GP looked at her and said she could feel something. She wasn’t happy and pushed through an urgent appointment at the Royal Preston Hospital.”
Further tests revealed Alexandra had cervical cancer, and in the past 14 months has undergone chemoradiotherapy and brachytherapy in Liverpool and London.
After the brachytherapy - where radioactive implants such as seeds, pellets, wires or plates are put near or inside the tumour - an MRI scan showed that the tumour had shown a partial response to the treatment, but while waiting for a PET scan to determine whether what was left was persistent disease or scar tissue, the tumour had started to grow back.
Nicola said: “At one point, the doctors thought they might be able to operate but a further MRI scan showed that the tumour was touching on the pelvic wall and was inoperable.
“It was heart-breaking especially considering that Alexandra had got herself all geared up for it.
“She had practised with a stoma bag as she had been told that they would have to remove part of her bowel, so to be then told ‘I’m sorry but it is not operable’ was just awful.”
Alexandra, who attended Carr Hill High School and has worked in hairdressing and housekeeping at Ribby Hall in Wrea Green, then started another round of chemotherapy, causing her to suffer with numerous side effects - including leaving her in a wheelchair and forcing her to shave off her hair.
Her latest scan showed the current treatment is keeping the tumour stable, but it has not shrunk it as hoped. Nicola said: “The latest round of chemo has made her really, really poorly, it’s floored her.
“She was told that she’d be poorly and then pick up and put on any weight she’d lost, and for a time that was the case. But now, she’s not really picking up and isn’t putting the weight back on.
“She’s only 5st 8lb and can barely walk because of the pain. It’s sad to see her deteriorate, but everyone is pulling together.
“But we haven’t got a lot of time to waste on this. The weight issue could be life-threatening in itself.”
She added: “Alexandra has so many reasons to keep fighting this terrible disease nothing more so than her daughter Ella who is only nine and she is a single parent too. We have a big family and the thought of her not being here with us for years to come doesn’t bear thinking about. I personally don’t know what I would do without her.”
Alexandra, who was born in Blackpool and raised in Wrea Green, is also keen to see the age for smear tests lowered.
Nicola said: “That’s a massive thing for her. She’s been saying that the age for smears needs to be lowered. She wants it to be available for girls when they become sexually active, which is legally 16 and it’s nine years until you are eligible for a smear.”
A spokesman for NHS England said: “We cannot comment on individual cases. Where a treatment is not routinely funded by the NHS, an Individual Funding Request can be made by a patient’s lead clinician. Decisions on whether to fund those requests are judgements taken by clinicians based on the evidence submitted by the patient’s clinician.”
To donate towards Alexandra’s treatment, search for Alexandra’s Immunotherapy fundraiseron gofundme.com
Her family are also planning a series of fundraising activities, the first being competing in a Tough Mudder 5km on September 8.
Any money raised that isn’t spent on Alexandra’s care will be donated to Children with Cancer UK, the same charity Alexandra raised almost £1,000 for when she shaved her hair.