Strangers have offered to pay for a young cancer victim’s vital treatment after health chiefs refused to fund it.
Heather Parkinson, 27, of Queensway, Leyland, who has Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, says she is overwhelmed with emotion at the generous offers.
Since highlighting Heather’s plight on Tuesday, the Evening Post has been contacted by people who want to help fund Heather’s treatment with a trial drug would cost NHS Central Lancashire a one-off payment of £3,000 but will cost Heather £16,000 if she is forced to fund it privately.
Two donors - who both wish to remain anonymous - have already pledged £3,000 each to help Heather get her life-saving treatment.
Heather today said: “I cannot believe how kind people have been and I am completely overwhelmed with emotion.
“It is lovely to know that some people do care and total strangers who have never met me seem to care more about me and what happens to me than the primary care trust which is supposed to look after the health of local people.
“I am so touched by the generosity of people who want to give money to me for the trial treatment and I think their kindness puts the PCT totally to shame.”
Heather was first diagnosed Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when she was 19 after suffering a cough which wouldn’t shift.
Investigations revealed she had stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma with multiple tumours and Heather underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy and managed to stay in remission for the next five years.
But last year, Heather discovered a lump in her neck and doctors confirmed her cancer had returned. Despite several sessions of chemotherapy, the cancer carried on growing and Heather is unable to have radiotherapy again as it would severely damage her heart and lungs.
Specialists at Manchester’s Christie Hospital believe Heather’s best hope is a cancer trial treatment being run by London’s Royal Free Hospital.
Once she is free of cancer or her tumours have shrunk, Heather would be able to have a cell stem transplant for which her 32-year-old sister Shelley Watson has already agreed to be a donor.
But after keeping Heather waiting for 13 weeks while they made up their mind, health bosses at NHS Central Lancashire left her devastated after refusing her request by saying the drug was “not licensed”. They have since apologised for keeping her waiting.
But other PCTs around the country have paid for patients to undergo the trial and the Royal Free Hospital is currently treating one patient a week with the treatment.
The trial is targeted radiotherapy called CD25 which only started being tested 18 months ago. Because it is between phase one and phase two of the trial, it is classed as a “compassionate treatment” and participants need their PCT to provide £3,000 of funding.
Heather, who owns a pet shop in Kirkham which her retired mum is currently managing, is now having fortnightly chemotherapy to stop her cancer getting even worse while she waits to see if she can have the trial.
Ironically, this is probably costing the NHS a lot more than the £3,000 needed to fund the trial.
One man, who has kindly agreed to donate £3,000 to help Heather get her treatment, says Heather has been treated despicably by the health trust.
The retired man who lives abroad and wishes to remain anonymous, said: “Apart from the dreadful pettiness of this decision, this young woman has had awful treatment by being kept waiting for 13 weeks for a decision while the powers that be made their judgement.
“I have had cancer a couple of times myself and I know that time is of the essence.
“This poor woman has been handed a death sentence for the sake of £3,000 by health bosses who act as judge and jury.
“To leave her hanging on in limbo for 13 weeks and then come back with such a pathetic reply shows they are completely inept.
“All they have done is exacerbate this woman’s medical condition in a situation where every day counts.
“I am just another human being who sympathises with someone in this situation and if my contribution of £3,000 helps Heather get her treatment quickly, I am more than happy to donate it.
“I have not lived in the UK for 27 years, but when I did, the NHS in the UK was the first place myself and my family would go for treatment.
“Now, I am afraid the UK is the last place I would go for medical treatment.”
One 62-year-old woman from Leicestershire who has also pledged £3,000 to help Heather, said: “I think it is totally unfair that this young lady cannot get the treatment she needs, especially when it is such as small sum for the NHS to pay.
“I just want her to get the treatment as quickly as possible and will give £3,000 towards it.”
Heather and her family have been inundated with cash offers and pledges to raise funds and are trying to set up an account to raise the money needed.