A bride-to-be with a super rare cancer has launched a heartbreaking campaign asking for donations for “last chance” life-saving treatment – instead of wedding presents.
Determined Emma Houlston, 31, has aggressive inoperable ovarian cancer and her only hope is £114,000-a-year immunotherapy which is not funded by the NHS.
Emma and fiance Matt Lees, 31, have brought forward their wedding and are to tie the knot around the corner from the hospital between appointments this Saturday.
The couple penned a heartfelt message to would-be guests asking them to donate a few pounds to Emma’s online fundraising page instead of gifts.
But Emma – thought to be the only person in the UK with the aggressive cancer – was stunned when loved ones shared the page online and donations rose to £50,000 in just 12 hours.
Speaking today (Tues) from hospital, art director Emma from Balham, London, said: “I’ve tried a number of treatments but I’ve run out of options.
“The only hope I have left is immunotherapy – a treatment that’s seen miraculous results for my cancer, but one that isn’t available on the NHS.
“The costs we face for this treatment are terrifying but when the only other option is giving up and dying I’m determined to find a way to keep myself alive.
“We’ve organised the wedding in a month and it has been very rushed but Matt and I just can’t wait to be married.
“People were asking us what we wanted as gifts. We don’t need anything – apart from money for the treatment.
“If we do run out of money – and I don’t know when that would be – we don’t know what will happen. Raising this money is, for me, the difference between life and death.”
Emma started feeling unwell and bloated in 2014 but initially put it down to getting fatter as she approached 30, and tiredness after Glastonbury Festival.
But her doctor found a grapefruit-sized tumour in her tummy area, and she was quickly diagnosed with small cell carcinoma of the ovary hypercalcemic type.
Emma is thought to be the only person in the UK with the aggressive cancer which can grown up to a centimeter a WEEK.
Surgeons successfully operated and she was declared cancer-free after six months of intense chemotherapy which finished in March 2015.
Emma went back to work in advertising, where she helped put together a recent ad for Macmillan Cancer Support.
“I travelled, I worked, I got engaged to the man I love,” said Emma.
“I watched as my friends had babies, wondering if maybe – against all odds – we might be able to have one as well.
“I just got on with my life – I didn’t think that much about what I had been through.”
But in June she started to feel unwell and doctors confirmed the cancer had returned with several tumours on her bladder, liver and elsewhere in her abdomen.
A drug trial was unsuccessful leaving just one option – immunotherapy treatment -which has proved successful around the world, but is not funded in the UK.
Immunotherapy works by harnessing the patient’s immune system to get it to destroy cancer cells.
But Emma has been told she will likely need a years worth of self-funded IV medicines to fight the rare small sell cancer.
It costs £22,000 every nine weeks so she circulated her fundraising page to wedding guests on Monday night.
Emma added: “We sent out an email to friends saying it would be wonderful if anyone wanting to give a small gift did so by making a donation to the fundraising page.
“I started it off with £20 last night to get it going and it just took off from there.
“It has been incredible. I was in tears as it poured in. It makes me well up that people I don’t know can be so generous as well as people I know being extremely generous.
“It is amazing people can be so kind.”
Emma and Matt, a video producer, are tying the knot at a town hall near The Royal Marsden Hospital on Saturday with an evening-do in a nearby pub.
To donate, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/2ry3umc