When Mellor nurse and mum-of-three Anne-Marie Fisher noticed a spot on her thigh, she did what anyone would have done and applied antiseptic cream.
The last thing she imagined was that just months later, she would be in a wheelchair diagnosed with skin cancer and wrapping Christmas gifts of iPads for her young daughters with the intention of using them to record poignant goodbye messages.
Happily, today Anne-Marie (51) is back on her feet and back working as a children’s nurse. Her cancer is in remission thanks to a combination of anti-cancer drugs currently on trial.
Doctors are using case notes like Anne-Marie’s and other patients from across the globe to determine whether her treatment should become the future first line treatment for everyone with the same type of cancer as Anne-Marie’s over the single medicine that is currently used.
So far, the evidence in favour of the experimental combo is very positive. Anne-Marie believes she owes her life to it and is welcoming the opportunity that through Rosemere Cancer Foundation’s funding more local cancer patients now have the option of taking part in clinical trials to find the anti cancer medicines of tomorrow.
The charity, which works to bring world class cancer treatments and services to patients under the care of Rosemere Cancer Centre at the Royal Preston Hospital, Lancashire and South Cumbria’s regional specialist cancer treatment centre, and at another eight hospitals across the two counties, has funded an oncology research co-ordinator to work at the new National Institute of Health Research Lancashire Clinical Research Facility, which opened in November.
Rosemere Cancer Foundation also paid for the CRF’s path lab, pharmacy and special seating for patients receiving drugs via a drip from money raised by its 20 Years Anniversary Appeal, which launched last year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Rosemere Cancer Centre’s opening. Through the oncology research co-ordinator, there is now a direct link between the CRF and Rosemere’s consultants, who through participating in clinical trials can access the very latest medicines for their patients that could still be some years off becoming generally prescribable – the sort of treatments in some cases making national newspaper headlines.
Anne-Marie, who began nursing at 18-years-old in 1985, said: “Nothing prepares you for being told you have cancer and in my case that it had spread to my lymph system. It’s the most horrendous, horrible feeling.
“When I first noticed the spot on my leg, I’d been working in the garden so thought I’d been bitten by a bug or scratched myself. Instead of getting better, it became more raised, red and painful so I went to my GP, who prescribed antibiotics.
“There were more trips to see my doctor and doctors at work. It was decided I had an abscess so I had it drained but it didn’t heal and the pain was so bad I began to struggle to stand. Increasingly worried, I eventually underwent scans and a biopsy, which led to the skin cancer diagnosis.
“By then, it was inoperable and had spread. That Christmas, my husband Brian and I bought iPads for our daughters Chloe (15), Ellie (12) and Rosie (10). They were thrilled but the intention behind the gift was for me to record goodbye messages.”
Anne-Marie was referred to Rosemere Cancer Centre, where consultant Dr Ruth Board told her that she could either begin immediate treatment with an oral chemotherapy medicine that day or, join a clinical trial researching the same medicine in combination with another chemotherapy drug.
Anne-Marie added: “Joining the trial meant at least a two week delay to starting treatment as I had to be assessed for suitability but something told me it was the right thing to do.
“I opted for the trial and I am obviously delighted I did. I am pleased more local cancer patients will now get the opportunity, thanks to Rosemere Cancer Foundation, to join trials should they wish and should their consultant believe it’s the right thing for them to do.”
For further information on Rosemere Cancer Foundation’s work and its 20 Years Anniversary Appeal, plus how to donate, visit the charity’s website at www.rosemere.org.uk