An oncology nurse forced to crowdfund to pay for a drug to prolong her life starts treatment today (Mon) after raising £80k – double her original target.
Laura Harris has now raised enough for four blocks of the treatment that she hopes could add months or even years to her life.
The drug Bevacizumab is not available on the NHS but thanks to the generosity of strangers it will be given to Laura alongside her standard chemo today (Monday).
Laura, 42, mum to Molly, 13, and Noah, 16, and step-mum to Zach, seven, has been battling stage four bowel cancer since last year and given just three months to live.
But she astounded colleagues by returning to her work caring for fellow cancer patients at North District Hospital later that year.
Laura, of Barnstaple, Devon, who came to the UK 20 years ago from America before qualifying as an oncology nurse in 2006, said despite witnessing what cancer patients go through on a daily basis at work nothing prepared her for being on the other side.
But she said she had been stunned watching the donations flood in from around the world over the weekend and felt humbled by the support she has received.
She said: “I just want to say thank you to everyone who has donated. I am completely and utterly overwhelmed.
“My husband and the kids and I, my mum as well, have been sat speechless all weekend kind of looking at each other and smiling and thinking ‘how have we come to deserve such generosity from so many people?’
“So many of you I will never meet and yet I am so eternally grateful for your generosity and your time.
“I don’t sleep very well at the minute and I was up in the middle of the night reading all the comments people have made when they made their donations and it really warmed my heart and helped me go back to sleep with a smile on my face and feel like I’ve got this giant team around us.
“I am now prepping for my first day on the new treatment and chemotherapy, it’s going to be a long day and we’re in at 10am to the unit to have treatment and shouldn’t finish until probably about 5pm. I am quite tired feeling a little bit sick so am taking all pain meds and resting with a hot water bottle.
“Just to say thank you again to everybody we’ll update you soon as we know how everything is working. As soon as I’ve got through a month of treatment we’ll be scanning and hopefully find out it’s been working, fingers crossed.
“So keep the good wishes coming if you can please, I’ll be thinking and sending them all back to you.”
Each block of the treatment costs £21,000 and Laura initially hoped to raise enough for two. But after her story was publicised the donations came flooding in and the latest total has the fund at more than £80,000.
And Laura said that although she recognises the NHS is not a ‘bottomless pit’ of money she felt any treatment that could help her create more memories to help carry her children through life should be supported and was priceless to her.
She added: “The hardest part of my diagnosis was the realisation I would not be around for much longer. I am terrified of dying. I wish I was someone who had come to peace with that fact but I have not come to peace with anything and am so scared of death.”
“I have had huge support from everyone and the family unit is strong. There is always someone with me. It is difficult with the kids. They are of an age where you cannot hide things and we have been very honest with them throughout.
“We have enough money for the initial set of cycles and if I respond well there is no need for me to stop having the drug.
“I am so hopeful now. I have read about people who have still been alive on it a year later.
“It is different for every person but going in my favour the cancer has not in my liver – if I respond well I could potentially stay alive for a lot longer – if I don’t, I don’t have a huge amount of time left.
“I would love all drugs to be available on the NHS but it is not a bottomless pit of money. NICE have a thankless task deciding what is worthy of funding.
“Of course I think it should be funded, for me and my family extending my life by weeks, months or years has no price tag.”
Husband Paul Harris, who brought forward their wedding to May last year in light of Laura’s terminal diagnosis, added: “We are extremely grateful and cannot believe how kind and generous people have been. It has absolutely blown us both away.
“The consultant has told there is not a limit to the number of doses that you can have.
“Because of that and how amazingly generous people have been we will continue to fundraise for more than the two blocks we now have the money for.
“This is about giving her more time. It is terminal and there is no cure for it unfortunately – there is no reversing it as the cancer has got a strong grip on her and we are not able to change that.
“But the drug can extend her life. It might be weeks, it might be a few months but when you look at it in pounds versus time spent with family it is priceless.”
Link to her fundraising page – https://www.gofundme.com/laura-treatment-fund