Hannah and Alex were married in 2012. Busy with enjoying their life together, and with many plans and hopes for the future and so much to look forward to, in April 2017 they were given the devastating news that at just 35 years of age, Hannah had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of stage 4 colon cancer that had spread to her ovaries and peritoneum.
With life and plans put on hold, what followed was 18 gruelling months of treatment which included emergency surgery to remove a tumour and one of Hannah’s ovaries; a radical invasive operation to remove a significant portion of bowel, her other ovary and additional peritoneal tumours; and 16 cycles of chemotherapy including hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC).
The treatment proved successful and all visible signs of the cancer were removed. And though Alex and Hannah knew that now they would not be able to consider the prospect of starting their own family, they were grateful to have each other still and to be able to go back to a more normal life; Hannah went back to work.
But in March 2019, only six months after the final round of chemotherapy, intense pain in Hannah’s abdomen returned and they were given the heart-breaking news that the cancer was back. This came as a terrible blow, in some ways even harder to absorb than the original diagnosis. Worse was to follow, because it appeared that further evidence based treatment options were now very limited. Not wanting to give up the fight, Hannah was accepted onto an immunotherapy clinical trial at the Royal Marsden Hospital.
The trial is ongoing and the treatment very aggressive; to witness Hannah’s courage and resilience in this is both humbling and awe-inspiring; the hope she has infuses us all. But it is very hard on her body, and the reality is that her team have told her that while they can try to slow the speed and spread of the disease, the cancer is now incurable.
However, there is an experimental immunotherapy treatment, known as tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL ), available at Frankfurt Northwest Hospital that could help to control the cancer, reduce the spread or even cure it. TIL treatment involves taking a specimen of one of Hannah’s tumours, growing and expanding T cells in a laboratory and then infusing the expanded cells back into Hannah together with a growth hormone. These expanded T cells then home in and attack the tumours, functioning a bit like a “personalised vaccine”. Hannah has already been to Frankfurt to meet the team to confirm that she would be eligible for the procedure. This treatment is not available on the NHS and therefore will require significant fundraising. The target amount is £100,000.
Hannah is an incredible person who has devoted her life to serving people within the NHS. Her joy of life, her love for others, her generosity and gentleness of spirit, her hope for the future, remain undimmed. Now she needs our help! Hannah and Alex would be so grateful to anyone who would like to support them in reaching their fundraising target, to help provide this potentially life-saving treatment.
Should Hannah be unable to continue the treatment, any unused funds will be donated to a number of UK Cancer Charities in Hannah's name: Bowel Cancer UK, Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, and Pelican Cancer Foundation.