A GRANDMOTHER-of-two who is battling a rare form of eye cancer needs to raise £56,000 for pioneering treatment which will prolong her life.
Teaching assistant Patricia Morris, who works at St James’ Primary in Lower Darwen, was diagnosed with ocular melanoma – which affects between 400 and 500 people each year – in her right eye in 2010.
She had radiotherapy at Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Liverpool as no such specialist cancer treatment is available in Lancashire.
The mother-of-three of Langham Road, Blackburn was then given the devastating news in April that the cancer had spread to her liver, where four large tumours were found.
Chemotherapy was Patricia’s only option on the NHS, despite the practice being widely reported to have only a very limited effect on melanoma.
But a pioneering treatment called Adoptive Lymphocyte Transfer, performed at The Christie in Manchester, has given 55-year-old Patricia and her family hope.
The expensive treatment involves removing some of a patient's own immune-system cells and growing billions of them in the laboratory before reintroducing them to the body to provide an invading force of immune cells to attack tumours.
The method is still in its infancy and reports show the treatment made tumours disappear completely in some patients.
Daughter Kate Hargreaves, 32, who is mum to Ted, three, and one-year-old Max, said: “We know we need this treatment because, without it, my mum’s health will decline rapidly.
“She will eventually lose her sight and, although every case is different, doctors say that once the melanoma spreads to your liver, you only have two years left.
“My mum is my best friend and my inspiration and if I can be half the mum she’s been to me to my two boys, then I will be more than happy.”
Admin worker Kate, who works for Aims Legal in Blackburn, has set up a Facebook group called Patricia’s Rare Eye Cancer Appeal and hopes fundraising activities will collect the money needed. She is also in the process of setting up a Just Giving page.
Patricia, who is also mum to 33-year-old Vicky, who is severely disabled, and Harry, 16, also decided to take part in a clinical trial earlier this year to increase her chances of survival.
University Hospital Southampton’s oncology unit offered a ground-breaking treatment called Delcath, which saturates the liver with an ‘ultra-high’ dose of an anti-cancer drug which does not enter the bloodstream, meaning the devastating side effects of chemotherapy are not felt.
Patricia, who was widowed the same week she was diagnosed with cancer, said: “There were risks involved because it is such a high dose of drug and can put pressure on your heart but, for me, there was just no other option. It was this or nothing.”
Kate added: “My husband, Stuart, had to take time off work to transport us down to Southampton and he’s having to work until 10pm some nights just to make his time back.”
Scans showed the treatment shrank the liver tumours but 10-session trial has now ended, leaving fundraising their only option.
Kate said: “It’s heartbreaking. My sister rings my mum around 30 times a day. Mum is the one person that Vicky trusts wholeheartedly and I just don’t know what would happen to her if we lost mum.
“I know everyone thinks that their mum is the best in the world, but my mum really is.
“Throughout all of this, she has still been putting her family first and it’s been amazing to see how she’s coped.
“We won’t give up hope.”