Huge blow for cancer fighter Heather

BRAVE: Heather Parkinson underwent pioneering cancer treatment last year thanks to Evening Post readers 'PICTURE: ROB LOCK
BRAVE: Heather Parkinson underwent pioneering cancer treatment last year thanks to Evening Post readers 'PICTURE: ROB LOCK
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Cancer fighter Heather Parkinson has been dealt a huge blow as a routine check-up has revealed the disease is back.

Heather, 29, who lives in Queensway, Leyland, had seven months in remission after generous Evening Post readers raised £16,000 to fund a trial treatment after years of fighting Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

But now Heather is facing more radiotherapy - even though it could damage her organs - as scans have shown there are new cancer nodes in her chest.

Despite the grim diagnosis, a determined Heather is refusing to get downhearted and says she will fight the cancer again.

Heather, who runs her own pet shop in Kirkham, near Preston, said: “It is not great news that the cancer is back, but it is just one of those things and I have to deal with it and do whatever needs to be done.

“I am staying positive and am determined not to let it beat me.”

Heather is now preparing to undergo more radiotherapy, even though she is not really supposed to have the treatment again. Each organ in the body can only receive a limited amount of radiation before it is permanently damaged, but in select cases, radiation therapy can be used a second time in the same patient.

Heather said: “I know you are not really supposed to have radiotherapy if you’ve already had it as it can cause damage to your organs.

“But the way I see it, I would rather face problems in the future because of damage to my organs than lose the chance of living my life now.

“As long as I can carry on with my normal day-to-day life, I am happy.

“I just want to live as active and full a life as possible. The worst thing for me would be to sit around at home doing nothing.”

Heather was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when she was 19 and began suffering from a cough she could not shift. After chemotherapy and radiotherapy, Heather was in remission from the disease - but two years later the cancer returned and this time, chemotherapy failed to tackle it.

Specialists at Manchester’s Christie Hospital told Heather her best chance was a trial cancer treatment being run by London’s Royal Free Hospital - but primary care trust NHS Central Lancashire refused to fund the treatment which would have cost them a one-off £3,000 as they said there was no evidence to prove it would work.

Heather then faced paying £16,000 as a private patient to fund the treatment - but kindhearted LEP readers came to her aid with cash donations.

The aim of the trial treatment was to get Heather free of cancer or to drastically reduce the size of the tumours enough for Heather to undergo a stem cell transplant for which her 30-year-old sister Shelley had agreed to be a donor.

The trial treatment which involved a radioactive cancer drug was successful in shrinking Heather’s tumours and she then had intense platinum-based chemotherapy before undergoing the stem cell transplant from sister Shelley.

After the transplant, Heather was very ill as her body had no immunity and she had to have all her childhood immunisations again to build it back up.

However, she was overjoyed when a crucial scan towards the end of last year showed there were no signs of cancer in her body and that she was in remission.

After a routine check-up showed there were four new cancer nodes in Heather’s chest, Heather was given a donor lymphocytes infusion from her sister’s donor cells, but this failed to work in tackling the disease.

Heather said: “It was a shock to find the cancer was back as I had been feeling absolutely fine and there were no signs or symptoms.

“If it hadn’t been for the routine scan at a check-up, I wouldn’t have known there was anything wrong.

“The good news is, the tumours haven’t got any bigger since I have the infusion treatment.

“I am too stubborn to let the cancer win and I am still working 16 hours a week in my shop and am just fitting my hospital appointments around my job.

“I just want to be in a position where I can live my life and not get dragged down by doom and gloom.”