Oncology nurse forced to fundraise for terminal cancer treatment says it's working

An oncology nurse forced to crowdfund a cancer drug denied her by the NHS said the new treatment is working, thanks to strangers across the world.

Laura Harris, 43, has spent her career looking after cancer patients, even returning to work when she was diagnosed.

But she sparked outrage across Britain after she was told a medicine she needed wasn't available from her own employer.

The mom-of-two was given just three months to live, but a drug she could use to extend her life is not provided by the NHS.

She set up a fundraising page aimed at raising an initial goal of $28,000 for the drug Bevacizumab.

The effect of chemotherapy on Laura Harris skin ,a specialist oncology nurse at North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple, was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer early last year and given just three months to live. See SWNS story SWNURSE;   See SWNS story SWNURSE; See SWNS story SWNURSE; An oncology nurse forced to crowdfund a cancer drug denied her by the NHS today (Thurs) said the new treatment is working - thanks to strangers across the world. Kind-hearted Laura Harris has spent her career looking after cancer patients - even returning to work when she was diagnosed. But she sparked outrage across Britain after she was told a medicine she needed wasn't available from her own employer. The mum-of-two was given just three months to live but a drug she could use to extend her life is not provided by the NHS. She set up a fundraising page aimed at raising £21,000 for the drug Bevacizumab. Thousands of strangers from across the world donated a total of £90,000 - enough for four blocks of the treatment - in days.

She was given just three months to live last year, but she said the treatment has kept her cancer at bay while even shrinking some tumors.  (SWNS)

In just days, thousands of strangers from across the world donated over $127,000, enough for four blocks of the treatment.

Harris has now completed her first cycle of Bevacizumab alongside a new chemo drug and said the treatment is holding her cancer at bay, and has even shrunk some tumors.

"I have now had my first cycle of the new combinations and I am thrilled to say it has been working," Harris said. "No regime comes without side effects and I can suffer nausea and sickness but I have felt better now than I have in a long time."

''My energy levels are up and my pain levels are under control," she said. "I have now had a CT scan which shows I am completely stable, nothing has grown and some things have actually shrunk."

''This was a mass in my abdomen that was the size of a watermelon. It is now down to the size of a grapefruit," she said. "We know now that it is working."

Harris, mom to Molly, 13, and Noah, 16, and step-mom to Zach, 7, has been battling stage four bowel cancer since last year.

Laura Harris.  See SWNS story SWNURSE; See SWNS story SWNURSE; An oncology nurse forced to crowdfund a cancer drug denied her by the NHS today (Thurs) said the new treatment is working - thanks to strangers across the world. Kind-hearted Laura Harris has spent her career looking after cancer patients - even returning to work when she was diagnosed. But she sparked outrage across Britain after she was told a medicine she needed wasn't available from her own employer. The mum-of-two was given just three months to live but a drug she could use to extend her life is not provided by the NHS. She set up a fundraising page aimed at raising £21,000 for the drug Bevacizumab. Thousands of strangers from across the world donated a total of £90,000 - enough for four blocks of the treatment - in days.

She said that she is now focused on creating memories with her family, and has created a bucket list that includes visiting relatives in the U.S.  (SWNS)

But she astounded colleagues by returning to her work caring for fellow cancer patients at North District Hospital later that year.

Harris, of Barnstaple, Devon, came to the U.K. 20 years ago from America before qualifying as an oncology nurse in 2006.

"Look at the difference just in the time I've had four cycles of chemotherapy and what that means to my family and children," she said. "I was away at the weekend at a show with my daughter and we were whooping and screaming all the way through until about 11 o'clock at night. I would never have been able to do that before."

"They don't talk about time at the moment," she said of her prognosis. "We just don't know. I have had so much treatment and my cancer has been through so much that we are taking it day by day and month by month."

"But I feel really positive about it and I feel so well," she said. "I can take part in life and look after my family more than I have been able to for a while."

Harris has now created a bucket list of things she wants to achieve and said number one is taking her family to meet other relatives in America.

"The big bucket list item is a visit to America to see my family and some friends I have not seen for a long time. Hopefully this can happen this summer and I want to strike while I am feeling well," she said. "I just want to spend time with family and friends making special memories which we would not have been able to do if it was not for this drug."

"I have absolutely no regrets about raising the money," she said. "I am so grateful; not only is it extending my life, it has made me feel so much better and that is worth so much. I want to tell everyone who raised money for me that it is working and I am so so grateful to every single one of them."

Harris was denied the drug from her employers after the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said in 2010 it would not be funded by the NHS because the benefits "did not justify the costs".

Each block of the treatment costs around $28,000, and Harris initially hoped to raise enough for two. But after her story was publicised the donations came flooding in and she raised more than $127,000.

MUSICIAN SERENADES SURGEONS DURING BRAIN OPERATION

And Harris said that although she recognises the NHS is not a "bottomless pit" of money, she felt any treatment that could help her create more memories to help carry her children through life should be supported and was priceless to her.

"The hardest part of my diagnosis was the realization I would not be around for much longer," she said. "I am terrified of dying. I wish I was someone who had come to peace with that fact but I have not come to peace with anything and am so scared of death."

"I have had huge support from everyone and the family unit is strong," Harris said. "I am so hopeful now. I have read about people who have still been alive on it a year later. I would love all drugs to be available on the NHS but it is not a bottomless pit of money. NICE have a thankless task deciding what is worthy of funding."

"Of course I think it should be funded, for me and my family extending my life by weeks, months or years has no price tag," she said. 

She has also recently celebrated her first wedding anniversary with husband Paul, after he moved up their wedding to May last year in light of her terminal diagnosis.

"This drug can extend her life," Paul Harris said. "It might be weeks, it might be a few months but when you look at it in pounds versus time spent with family, it is priceless."