Leah's Cancer Fund
Thank you for visting this page for my beautiful partner, Ali's battle with, what doctors have labelled, terminal cancer.
To many she is known as Leah Bracknell, and has enjoyed a 30 year career on TV and stage, and is best remembered for portraying Zoe Tate in Emmerdale for sixteen years. To others she is a yoga teacher who has inspired thousands.
To us, she is Ali, wonderful mother of two, loving partner and daughter. We desperately hope that we , her friends and loved ones, can raise the funds she needs for a potentially life saving treatment. Time is of the essence. Here is a bit of her story, in Ali's own words.
‘Just over 5 weeks ago. I was feeling perfectly well, fit and healthy. Teaching yoga classes and workshops, it was a time of new beginnings : preparing to move house, youngest child fleeing the nest, and excited to be starting rehearsals for a comedy play, being back onstage, going on tour.
But, it turns out that the universe had other plans. Life was about to be unexpectedly turned on its head.
I began to feel breathless climbing stairs. Really breathless. I just put it down to a bit of stress. My abdomen suddenly ballooned- and within a matter of a few days I looked heavily pregnant. I could barely walk or breathe. Then, one Saturday night at the beginning of September I ended up in A & E.
Following a difficult and terrifying night (my heartbeat rose to 180 beats a minute!) I was subsequently given an emergency procedure to remove a large amount of fluid from around my heart, by a very handsome cardiologist from Slovakia. ( Jez really can't see it!)
I was told later, without that, I would have died. So I am beyond grateful. Without it, I would not be here, enjoying the Autumn sunshine, watching the leaves change colour, settling into our new home. I would not know either quite what brilliant, generous and loving friends and family I have.
However, the bad news is that I have been diagnosed with lung cancer, stage 4. In their opinion, that means it's terminal, not curable, not operable . A fairly brutal and bleak diagnosis but one I am determined to challenge and see from the perspective of "a glass half full", going against a lifetime of pessimism, negativity and fear!!!!
By the way, please imagine me writing this and speaking in quite an upbeat and cheerful voice. Do NOT imagine me sitting here writing through a veil of tears. I am not. Or feeling sorry for myself. I am not (yet).
My priority is getting well and strong, so that I can continue to endeavour to be a good, mother, daughter, wife, or at least the best I can be.
My priority is to defy expectation.
My priority is to love, to laugh, and, as Bob said, to "keep on keepin' on".
With all my heart and armfuls of blessings. I thank you for reading this.'
As you can see, Ali has responded with incredible positivity and determination, like she has throughout her life, being an inspiration to others. This has already had a positive impact on some of her results.
Having done a lot of research, we have found there are incredible breakthroughs being made in the field of immunotherapy and integrative medicine, which are seeing previously 'incurable' cancers going into complete remission. A clinic in Germany called the Hallwang clinic is leading the way in this. The downside is that these cutting edge treatments aren't yet available on the NHS outside of clinical trials, most of which Ali doesn't qualify for, and are very expensive.
Due to difficult personal circumstances , Ali / Leah has been unable to work in her chosen profession of acting for a number of years which has seen a big drain on her resources. Understandably, she is unable to continue acting or teaching right now. This is why we are fundraising here. Away from acting she has volunteered her time and energy for a local homeless charity and recovery project cooking and teaching meditation, she has touched and transformed the lives of many people through yoga and her work as a healer.
We are looking to raise the money to visit the Hallwang clinic in Germany and help go towards the costs of Ali's treatment, to give her the best possible chances of not only survival, but to thrive. This is an initial target for a first visit and round of treatment, depending on how she responds, more visits may be needed and costs may rise.
Over the years she has given so much to so many. As an award winning actress and the first lesbian in soap, she helped raise awareness of LGBT issues and later her sensitive portrayal of a Schizophrenic breakdown, brought a lot of attention to mental illness. Her yoga DVD Yoga & You inspired many people onto the path. She still feels she has so much to give and share, not just those she loves, but through her teaching and healing work.
To me she has given love, patience, kindness and shone an incredible light in my world. We want to make sure the light she shines radiates for a long time yet, and are all determined she can beat this.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, please donate generously if you can to help fund this potentially life saving treatment. We will be eternally grateful.
Jez and Ali xx
Another update, to thank you all deeply once more for your incredible support. It's been an up and down couple of months but Leah continues to remain strong and, in the face of everything, incredibly well, as you can see in the photos. We have found out the drug she was on definitely isn't working, so she has been off this for a while, while we find out about the next available steps. In fact we now think the drug probably stopped working back in March or even before, so for the last five months or so, she has been prospering solely on the 'alternative' treatments we have set in place. This is due to the incredible support we have had, as these treatments and private consultations aren't cheap, so we are so very grateful for the opportunity to keep Leah strong and well in this way as we really believe it is working. Without the support we have received from you, we truly believe Leah wouldn't be in such a positive position, given the nature of the disease. Thank you again. One thing Leah swears by is the infrared sauna we were able to purchase that she is in very regularly. Other treatments that are having a very positive affect are various plant based healing oils, which we credit for a lot of how well she remains. Also, a healthy diet, and a positive attitude, have been very helpful and support from a great NHS oncologist's team in London. But next steps are now needed. We have continued to be in contact with the Hallwang, discussing the best timing for going over there. This will now be likely happening sooner rather than later, as there are some options presenting themselves which could mean a combination of some immunotherapy done over here enhanced by the treatments in Germany. This would be much more sustainable long term, as the immunotherapy drugs are very, very expensive. All the time we are learning more about all the different treatment options and their availabilities. Due to the newness of the immunotherapy treatments, the rules around them and how they become available are changing all the time. Yet, they continue to show the greatest promise of long term remission which is what we are still very much aiming for. So thank you again for all your tremendous support, it means so much to myself and Leah and our family. And it has meant that the possibilities for Leah's recovery still remain open.
Leah continues to write her blog https://somethingbeginningwithc.com
and is on Facebook.
With Love and Blessings
Jez & Leah xx
This is Jez here. A thousand apologies for the delay in updates. Cancer really is a full time job! Also, it's very much been a cat and mouse wait and see time and there hasn't been anything concrete to update. For the last few months, we've been trying to ascertain whether the drug Leah is on is working. This means the continuation of a lot more tests etc and hopefully soon we will know. Leah remains incredibly positive and well in herself though which we're told is the best indication of health. And thanks to your incredible support, there are options if the drug has stopped working. Also it enables Leah to embrace a full complementary approach to help her to maintain her strength and bring deep healing. We are both incredibly grateful and thank you from the bottoms of our hearts. And thank you for all your positive comments and messages. Apologies if we can't respond to each one individually. For people asking for advice on integrative treatments for cancer, we recommend Patricia Peat of Cancer Options, who has been incredibly helpful to us in terms of options going forward and treatments that can supplement and enhance the standard care. Also, Leah writes an occasional blog to share her thoughts and experiences on her journey which can be viewed here: https://somethingbeginningwithc.com
She is also on Facebook.
She would also like to share with you this video which is a deeply relaxing guided mediation through the senses to de-stress and calm, as a huge thank you to all your continued amazing support.
We will update again soon, when we are sure of the next steps. Thank you again, and loads of love and blessings to you all.
Jez and Leah xxx
I can’t believe that December is here. As I look out of the window, the scene remains stubbornly autumnal, as if, like me, the trees, birds, hedges and all of nature seem to be trying to slow down time, to catch the clock between our palms, hold it fast, make a wish, then let it go on a puff of air.
I am feeling good, really good and I want to once again, thank you so, so much for all your continuing good wishes, encouragement, support with donations, love, messages, letters, and prayers. Not a day goes by when I don’t stop to think how exceptionally and unexpectedly lucky I have been to receive such a phenomenal, crazy, inspirational response. It took my breath away then, it takes my breath away now. I can’t emphasise enough, how healing and inspiring it has been to know people are rooting for me, people I don’t even know quite often, it’s as potent as anything big pharma can concoct, seriously, to know that you are loved and you are not alone. Thank you.
So, as I write it is exactly 3 months since I rocked up at A & E. And as you may imagine, life has somewhat resembled the proverbial roller coaster, which means that while there were difficult moments, there have also been the most incredible, amazing, uplifting, magical, unexpected, aw-inspiring moments too, that remind me just how great it is to be alive.
I thought by now, I would be writing from Germany but, as a direct result of the campaign and subsequent information people were giving us, I went for a second and third opinion, for treatment pathways and options. It’s been EYE OPENING. I am SO glad we did. I never even considered it was an option. And it has led to some really positive and unexpected news.
I am just going to say now, if you are NOT happy with any part of your diagnosis/treatment plan etc you are entitled to a second opinion in the NHS via a referral from your GP.
It changed the treatment protocol options available to me drastically and has bought that most precious and priceless of gifts – “Time”.
In short, I had originally been told, that the only option available to me was 6 rounds of palliative chemotherapy. We asked about trials, and was told NO, that it was unlikely I’d be eligible. We asked about targeted therapy and were told compatibility rates are low, less than 10% and usually it is female, non- smokers who are Asian. But thanks to my extremely Chinese mother, I hoped that perhaps this could give me a break, a chance, a lifeline, a glimmer of hope.
It kind of went like this:
ME: Er hello, Dr, excuse me, I might not look it, but I’m actually half Chinese, Asian, thanks to my mother, surely I’m worth testing for compatibility?
DR: Um. No.
ME: Really, come on, this is my life here?
DR: Well, in my opinion it’s highly unlikely to achieve compatibility, and the results will take 6 weeks to come back. I wouldn’t waste your time.
I am so grateful that we didn’t take No for an answer.
Because the good news is that, I have been able to transfer my care/treatment package to another Doctor in London who is excellent. And, I recently received the news that we had all been praying for: the biopsy revealed a match for the EGFR mutation, and I was able to start on targeted biological therapy, here in the UK on the NHS a couple of weeks ago. You take it daily as a tablet, it works by targeting the cancer cells directly, so the rest of the body and immune system is less compromised, and side effects are considerably eased in the majority of cases.
It is also goes someway to explain how, despite being relatively fit and healthy, I got lung cancer, as those with this mutation tend to be much younger, female, quite often Asian and non-smokers or those that have quit a long time ago. In fact, despite a lot of preconceptions, lung cancer is increasingly being diagnosed in non-smokers, and is on the rise, especially in younger people.
I am grateful and thankful beyond belief and beyond words for this lifeline. That I had originally believed was not a viable option, so It is such a bright beacon of positivity and good fortune. It shows the prayers and good wishes I have received are working so far. So, for now, we breathe. We wait. We watch. We see. We live in hope.
What it means practically is it buys us a bit of time to fully prepare for the trip abroad. The drug isn’t a cure, as in most people it eventually stops working as the cancer finds a way around the targeted treatment. No one knows when this might happen. The diagnosis remains the same, but hopefully, this may affect the prognosis, and more importantly give us time to prepare for the next stage of the treatment abroad, which is part of a much longer term plan, to get the cancer into long term remission, which certain types of immunotherapy have shown to do. It is just a matter of getting the timing right, which we are being advised upon.
In the meantime, a lot of the integrated side of the medicine available in Germany is also available privately here, so we have begun a protocol of treatment to work alongside the targeted drug. The fund is assisting hugely with this. So, my heartfelt thanks once again for making these options available to me. As always with cancer, it is about a multi-faceted, integrated approach which is shown to be most effective.
So, rather a long update and catch up, and along with it please know that I send my love and prayers to you in return.
If you are reading this, and are in a similar situation to myself, I hold you in my heart and prayers, I wish you all the healing you wish for yourself. I pray that your spirit knows peace, and joy and love, and to let you know you are not alone.
If you are interested in following more of my journey and mad, mindful musings, then please join me on my new blog somethingbeginningwithc.com .
As for me, the day is all “teeth and trees”. I’ve just had a double extraction so what better remedy than to decorate the tree!
Leah/ Ali xxx
Leah, My name is Hayley and i have been treated at the Hallwang Clinic in Germany since Easter. I'm from Derby, UK. My Facebook page is Hayleys Cancer Fight and my go fund me page is Hayleys Cancer Treatment fund. If you would like to get in touch so i can help with any advice and questions about the Hallwang and some of their treatments. I'm happy to chat if you would like to speak to someone who understands send me a message through my Facebook page! The clinic is a truly amazing place and i had fantastic results after just 8 weeks of treatment. Please get in touch if you wish. Hayley xxx
Hi Ali: have you contacted Professor Christian Ottosmeir at Southampton General hospital he is running a clinical trial via the NHS in immunotherapy treatment specifically for lung cancer. My mother in law had it for 7 months, it was working then stopped. I think they said it works 80% of cases??? They test you first to see if you have the right kind of DNA for it as it can't work for everyone. Please give him a try before you head off to Germany. Very best of luck with it. My mother in law had same diagnosis as you and she is still going over 3 years later and she is almost 80.
Hi Leah,saddened to hear your news if I can be of any help please get in touch,My father is currently being treated at the Hallwang clinic and will be there for the next Month There's a patten forming here with the NHS giving up on people. I wish you all the very best regards Darren Mutch here's my fathers story. https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/hopeforkennethmutch?utm_id=2&utm_term=8mPBZrkAW
Unfortunately I lost my husband to this cancer in December 15, but what I have learnt is that there is a breakthrough in the uk. ....... Keytruda which is at the Royal marsden and other hospitals and nivolumab... The is the first cure from keytruda. Mavis nye please look her up on google ...if you can't get to Germany it's better to try closer to home and get treatment ASAP. Hope this helps.
Have given to your fund. But I feel that there are thousands of people including myself trying to raise funds to get to Germany ourselves for vital life saving treatment. My time is running out and in four months I've raised £6000. I do wish u luck with ur treatment but can't help but think others inc me will die because we get forgotten about!!!
Hi Leah/Ali I am sorry I can't donate at the moment. I too have stage 4 terminal breast cancer and have my own go fund me page. I hope you hit your target and that you get the treatment that you so desparetly need. If it is ok with you I will share your page...please could you share mine. Lots of love Karen
Have given to your fund. But now I'm beginning to think this is a joke. There are thousands of people including me trying to raise funds to get to Germany ourselves for vital life saving treatment. My time is running out and in four months I've raised £6000. I do wish u luck with ur treatment but can't help but think others inc me will die because we get forgotten about!!!
Leah my name is Reece and I was really upset not to see you in Nobody's Perfect the other day at Blackpool Grand theatre. Where the only information I could find out was that you had taken ill. If you speak to the other cast members they could probably tell you how upset I was. But I now know the upset I felt pails into insignificance when I think of the upset and pain that you, your friends and family must be feeling at this time. My heart felt sympathy goes out to you and although who are blessed with knowing you in their personal lives and all those whose lives you have touched in so many ways. I really hope that the cast and crew of Nobody's Perfect are insisting that they have a collection at the end of every production in every venue they are performing at from now till the end of the tour. Once again with all my heart and compassion I am sorry to hear this news and may you reach your target and much more and continue to bless many more people with all your kind works.
Hi Leah, My father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Mesothelioma caused by asbestos. There is a Professor Vogl at the University Hospital in Frankfurt pioneering a treatment involving chemoembolisation which helped my father. Unfortunately we started the treatment too late to make a real difference but it did give him much longer with us than he would have had otherwise. Please consider looking into this treatment if it is still available. I have professor Vogl's email address if you would like it.
Hi there really saddened to hear of this devastating news, I have done a lot of research into alternative treatments, at the end of the day everything is worth a try, I have made lots of contacts in alternative treatment, please inbox me if interested or if not at the very least I can share your page if you wanted to my 50k customers on my facebooks and let's see if we can raise some money, my number is 07894 252530 if you wanted a chat.