Ali was first diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2013, I remember when she came round to tell me, it hit me like a train, a day I’ll never forget. Shortly after finding out about Ali’s cancer I was travelling back from Newton Abbot and getting out at Wakefield train station. A girl of about 8 or 9 got off the train at the station and started running, bursting through the crowds with extreme excitement and diving into her mum’s arms for the warmest embrace you’ll ever see. I remember thinking at the time how special it was, and how cruel it would be if Finley couldn’t experience that when he was older. Finley was only 18 months old when Ali was first diagnosed, and she had to stop teaching to undergo an operation in order to remove the tumour, then immediately start a course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The treatment went well, and by the end of 2013 her gruelling experience had finished with no signs that it had spread anywhere else as the lymph nodes removed were clear. However the type of breast cancer she had was a rare aggressive type; triple negative breast cancer (TNBC).
November 2015 a week after her second child Scarlett was born, Ali found out her cancer had reoccurred and it wasn’t just in her breast this time. The cancer had now spread to her lymph nodes, below her collar bone and down the chest wall. The diagnosis wasn’t good and was now classed as stage 4, originally Ali was told she could have months left to live as they were unable to operate on the tumours under her collar bone and in the chest wall and they were concerned it had spread further as they are unable to detect on scans if it’s less than a cm. So she started further treatment, this time she had a double mastectomy, a course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, I have no idea how she did this with a new-born baby. But I honestly never heard her complain once, she just got on with it and wanted to spend as much time as she could with her family. Again the treatment went well and when it finished in July, a CT scan showed she was in full remission.
October 2016, only 3 months later after a very positive CT scan Ali went back to the doctors, unbelievably her cancer had returned. This time it showed it had also spread to her lungs as well as under her armpit. Again the outlook wasn’t good but she had the opportunity to go on a trial treatment called pembrolizumab, a type of immunotherapy, which had seen some great results for 20% of the people that had trialled it before with TNBC. A few months in, she was given the news that it wasn’t working, her tumours were still growing with new ones I her lungs. Ali is now facing another course of chemotherapy through the NHS which can’t cure the cancer but will hopefully give her a little more time with her family and friends. The problem is there are only a few more chemotherapies she can try and they all have about 20% chance of working.
After some research we have found out that to give Ali the best chance of living longer we need to try and raise enough money to get treatment at the Hallwang clinic in Germany that specialises in a potentially lifesaving new targeted treatments for TNBC that they don’t have available on the NHS. She’s already had conversations with the consultants out there; however the treatment is so expensive that the family need support to raise enough to pay for her treatment.
Jonathan Cooke (Ali's little Bro)
Since becoming a mum nothing has been more important than her kids, spending every minute she can with them and her husband Adam trying to create magic memories. She just wants to see her two amazing children grow up, hearing Scarlett say I love you Mummy for the first time and taking her to school for her first day, or seeing Finley play his first game of football. I really hope you can help, and thank you for taking time to read Ali’s story.