AS a victim of leukaemia and mother of two small children, Emma Brindle has just one wish – to survive long enough to see her family grow up safely and happily.
But the 37-year-old reception teacher’s hopes of achieving a remission have this month been shattered. In her own words, her world has been turned upside down as her chances of dying have increased.
The reason is nothing to do with her health, which is improving steadily. Instead it is down to CASH – money that the NHS is not willing to pay for drugs that will save the life of Emma and thousands of others.
Two weeks ago Government-funded NICE, the National Institute for Health and clinical Excellence, announced proposals to withdraw ‘second line’ drugs as a leukaemia treatment.
This means when victims becomes resistant to their first line drug, usually Imatinib, there is no other choice but a bone marrow transplant.
“With any bone marrow transplant there is a 35 per cent chance of dying before you even leave the operating theatre. It is an extremely risky operation,” said Emma.
For years the usual treatment has been to continue the patient on standard dose Imatinib as long as possible. But when resistance sets in the dosage is increased or other ‘miracle’ drugs such as Nilotinib or Dasatinib are used.
“To stop the use of these second line drugs is like sweeping away the security blanket of anyone who has leukaemia,” said Emma, who lives on Monkston.
A part-time teacher at Heronshaw First School, she was diagnosed in March after going for a GP check up because she felt tired.
“I went because I thought I may be anaemic. As a working mum of a five-year-old and a three-year-old I expected to feel tired sometimes but I was relatively healthy, didn’t smoke and ate sensibly, so I never dreamed anything was seriously wrong.
“Obviously it was a horrible shock, but I tried to stay positive. I told myself that, with all the drugs available these days, I was going to stay alive to bring up my children.”
Emma agreed to take part in a clinical trial using Nilotinib as a first line drug, with the prospect of switching to an alternative if it failed.
“Then I heard about the NICE proposal and I was horrified. I said to my husband: ‘Oh my God, I’m going to die after all. What happens when this drug can no longer keep me alive?’
“I have so much left to give, both to my family, the children I teach and society as a whole. Where are the choices the Conservatives keep telling is we have in the NHS?”
> Emma is urging people to sign an online petition organised by Leukaemia Care charity to protest about the NICE proposals at www.gopetition.com/petitions/nice-i-don-t-think-so.html.