Before reading my blog I recommend you watch this short film.
It was in December 2010 that I was given the bad news that my cancer had returned and spread to other organs. My prognosis was very poor and I was given just 18 months to live. There was however a little glimmer of hope; the possibility of a life-saving operation to remove my tumour, but first my doctors needed to shrink it. My doctor told me about a fantastic new drug that could help but unfortunately it wasn't available freely on the NHS and if I wanted it, I would have to pay for it myself.
I had heard many stories where cancer patients were being forced to beg for their lives, spending their life savings or re-mortgaging their homes to pay for the new breed of cancer treatments that offered them extra time with their loved ones. I never ever thought it would happen to me!
The thing is these treatments are expensive. I mean the kind of expensive that pays kids school fees and buys second hand cars. Mine for example costs £21,000 for a ten-month course. Hell, I didn't even know what it all meant. One minute I was being told that there was a treatment that could save my life, the next I was being told I couldn't have it on the NHS. I was ill and in hindsight it's pretty amazing how the brain works and emotion shuts down... but that's another story.
I continued to die slowly when a miracle happened. Just before the last election in 2010 one David Cameron MP made a pledge that when/if he became prime minister then "...if your doctor thinks that you should have a cancer drug that will help you live a longer and better life you should get that drug."
On becoming prime minister, Mr Cameron kept his promise and introduced the Cancer Drugs Fund. Money was put aside by the Government to pay for cancer drugs that hadn't been approved due to their cost and weren't available within the NHS in England. The fund made a huge difference to thousands of lives and provided patients like me with new innovative medicines that would change lives and give us hope for the future.
In my case my doctor was now able to prescribe a drug that according to NHS officials would only prolong my life by another few months and was therefore not deemed cost effective. Wrong! I am still here today, thanks to the Cancer Drugs Fund.
It was the Cancer Drugs Fund that gave me access to the drugs I needed to shrink my tumour and enabled a team of highly skilled and courageous surgeons to prolong my life not just for a few months but for many years. Now four years later I am alive and well and living a normal life. My last scan revealed that I was still clear of cancer and my surgeons are very hopeful that the disease will not return.
The recent decision by NHS England to remove some drugs from the Cancer Drugs Fund approved list as part of a cost management exercise generated stark headlines, combative comments and an apparently wide chasm of views. The straightforward fact though is that more than 8,000 cancer patients will be deprived access to vital treatments and die prematurely.
So how do you think I felt when I discovered that the drug that saved by life would, along with a number of other drugs and treatments, no longer be available to cancer patients?
Appalled and disgusted are two words that immediately spring to mind but more than that, to be honest, it scared me. It scared me that I had actually been incredibly lucky to have been ill at the right time. It seems crazy to talk about luck and being ill at the right time and that is what this campaign is all about. The treatment of this awful disease should NOT be a matter of luck and being ill at the right time.
Unfair was another word that sprung to mind. How unfair it was that some cancer sufferers would be discriminated against because the treatment they needed was more expensive.
In September 2013 Mr Cameron had paraded me as a success of the Cancer Drugs Fund and made assurances to me that not only would people in my position continue to get the treatment they need but that he and his Government were committed to empowering the clinicians, doctors, oncologists to make the life-saving decisions.
Here is a photo of David Cameron making that promise to me
Only 16 months later this promise has been broken.
My own view is that the patients need a voice. They need to be heard. My campaign is a way for us to be heard. Please support me whether you are a cancer patient or not. This affects us all. We have, after all, only just been told that 50% of us will get cancer in our lifetimes.
We should not give up on cancer patients.
Please click here to support us. We need a voice and you help us have one. But don't just sign up, support us too by telling everyone and getting them to sign up too. Shout it from the rooftops!