Community rallies behind woman paying £3,000 a month for life-saving cancer treatment

Heather King was diagnosed with stage four terminal liver cancer last year but an experimental treatment has given her a new lease of life

Heather King, with husband Mervyn and sons Joe and Ross
Heather King, with husband Mervyn and sons Joe and Ross

A CO Derry community has come together to support a woman who is fighting a rare form of cancer with an expensive groundbreaking experimental treatment.

After battling cervical cancer Limavady woman Heather King (58) was diagnosed with stage four terminal liver cancer last year.

She was handed a lifeline after it was discovered that she qualified for a new form of therapy which targets the tumours directly and destroys them by breaking down the proteins.

It had never been used to treat liver cancer, making it effectively a trial and meaning Heather would have to self-fund £2,990 every three weeks.

But despite the financial burden and a series of health struggles she said she was remaining positive.

“It’s just fight or flight,” she said “if you just run from it you have no control over it.

“You have to take it all, there’s a positive in everything. If I hadn‘t broken my pelvis, they wouldn’t have found the liver cancer.”

The fractures to her pelvis last year were a result of treating the cervical cancer.

“I just never got that bounce back after finishing chemo, I felt worse, and then just one day I couldn’t move. I had no power from my waist down.”

Following an MRI scan it was discovered she had two fractures, more or less where the radiation would have been.

“The pain was horrendous, but when they biopsied an abscess on my liver that never went away they realised it was cancer.”

After surgery to remove 70% of her liver and part of her gall bladder, she was given the all clear. But only 12 weeks later she was given the devastating news that the cancer had returned.

“Last July they told me I had until October,” she recalled, “they told me to get things set up. It was desperate.”

But a blood test revealing she had the Her2 gene led to medical suggestions of the experimental treatment.

After five rounds her tumours are showing signs of shrinking and she said she has had a “new lease of life”.

But the cost of the treatment, which Ms King has been told she will need long-term, is causing financial strain.

The Limavady community, touched by her story, has been rallying to raise money to help fund her treatment.

Local author Gerry Robinson has pledged to donate part of the proceeds of his latest book to her treatment.

The family also raised funds towards Ms King’s treatment by holding a Fun Day on Saturday 18 May at Limavady Football Club. A number of businesses in the area donated prizes for a raffle.

“I’m just overwhelmed by people, their support has been amazing. It’s absolutely mind blowing, I never thought it would take off and run like this,” said Ms King.