Aundrea pins her hopes of survival on German clinic with pioneering treatment for terminal cancer
A brave mum who was given less than a year to live has started what she hopes will be life-saving treatment at a specialist clinic in Germany.
Speaking from her hospital bed, where she was hooked up for her first session of chemotherapy, an upbeat Aundrea Bannatyne said she was determined to fight despite being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.
The 42-year-old, from Dundonald, added she had been inspired by the stories she had heard since arriving at the Hallwang Clinic last Sunday.
She explained: "I'm feeling really positive. The amount of people I am seeing here with inspirational stories is remarkable.
"One girl flew here in an air ambulance from Norway in March with just 24 hours to live. I was sitting yesterday talking to her and she looks amazing."
Aundrea's devastating diagnosis came after she nursed her youngest son, James, through brain cancer.
He was just two years old when he was diagnosed, and in the space of a year underwent five brain operations, 10 courses of chemotherapy and 25 radiotherapy treatments.
Now aged 10, his cancer is thankfully in remission.
Aundrea also has a 14-year-old son, Jack, and after her diagnosis she vowed to beat the cancer for the sake of her two boys.
She first took ill in May with severe pain in her back and had numerous tests carried out before being given the shattering news that she had terminal pancreatic cancer.
Aundrea was given between six and 12 months to live, which she refused to accept. Since then, she been looking at treatments outside Northern Ireland.
Friends and colleagues launched a social media fundraising campaign called #AundreasArmy, and within six weeks had raised a staggering £100,000.
Initially the mum had hoped to pay for surgery in London, but was told by a specialist that it was too risky. It was by pure chance, when admitted to hospital two weeks ago with pain in her legs, that she heard about pioneering new treatment in the Hallwang Clinic in Dornstetten, Germany.
As well as chemotherapy, Aundrea hopes to receive pioneering immunotherapy treatment at the clinic, and is also being given vitamin C infusions, which are known to be effective against cancer.
"I was taken into hospital two weeks ago with pain in my legs and, while in hospital, people told me about the clinic," she explained.
"I went onto their Facebook page and couldn't believe the inspirational stories.
"I contacted the clinic and here I am two weeks later, and I am so keen for it to get started.
"I've just started my first chemo today, and I'm still not sure what the immunotherapy treatment entails yet.
"I will be here for three weeks and then I hope when I go home that my oncologist will continue the chemo that I am getting here, which is less severe.
"I will have to return to Germany every three weeks, and I'm not sure how long for."
While she focuses on beating the cancer, Aundrea is mindful of the colossal costs involved in receiving treatment abroad.
However, friends have taken on the challenge of raising another £100,000, so that she can focus her energies on getting well.
"I'm just so grateful to everyone," Aundrea said. "It is amazing what people are doing for me and how generous people are.
"In hospital, when I was told I had months to live, my friends were sitting round my bed and said they were not going to accept it and they launched #AundreasArmy.
"They just said, 'You do the fighting and we'll find the money'. They have been amazing.
"The bill for two weeks in this clinic is £114,000, and the five injections which I need are €45,000. This is going to cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, and if I have to sell my house (to meet the cost) I will. I will do whatever I need to."
While trying her best to stay positive, Aundrea admitted it was a struggle at times and that she missed her two boys, who she desperately wants to see grow up.
"I don't know if I will get a cure, but if I go into remission that is good enough for me," she stressed. "I wasn't even offered that chance when I was diagnosed.
"I want as much time with my boys as possible. I am keeping upbeat, but I can't help grieving for my old life. I miss being stressed at work and I miss the old me.
"I get quite angry sometimes that this has happened to us again after what happened to James, but I have to be positive and being here in Germany has given me hope."
To support Aundrea's fight for survival, donate at https://www.gofundme.com/2gtranmq