Bangor cancer mum forced to pay for drugs - I'm begging for my life, says Melanie Kennedy
A terminally ill mother has said she having to "beg for her life" in a bid to receive a life-prolonging drug that could give her more time with her young sons.
A crowdfunding appeal has been launched for Bangor woman Melanie Kennedy (40), who has been battling breast cancer and the so-called NHS postcode lottery for drugs for four years.
One of her last hopes of spending more time with her two sons - Josh (16) and five-year-old AJ - is a drug called Kadcyla.
While it is available on the NHS in Scotland, it is only offered privately here at a cost of around £20,000.
After the launch of the appeal, Melanie said: "I feel like I am having to beg for my life - and it's not a nice thing."
Melanie was recently given the devastating news that her current treatment is no longer working.
She added that the current political impasse was preventing any progress on improving access to specialist drugs in Northern Ireland.
The single mother has tirelessly campaigned for improved drug access for cancer patients here.
The cancer medication could potentially slow down the progress of the disease and offer Melanie a longer life.
She hit out at what she calls the two-tier system for cancer patients and the current political impasse of the Northern Ireland government.
"We were speaking with the Department of Health and involved in a consultation to change the way drugs are accessed," she said.
"We were being heard. But none of this can happen when we have no government.
"People are fantastic, but the Government shouldn't be relying on the generosity of the people in Northern Ireland to look after our own."
Though somewhat reluctant, Melanie agreed to crowdfunding after her friend Leesa Harker, the creator of stage and book sensation Fifty Shades of Red, White and Blue, set up a page.
In only 12 hours, the pair have raised more than £11,000.
"This drug, Kadcyla, is the best option for me and always has been," she said.
"It's available in Scotland and I had looked at uprooting my family and moving there or travelling back and forth, but both were too difficult to do in the circumstances.
"After speaking to my friend Leesa, we thought we'd try and get it through crowdfunding. There has been evidence that if you have the drug and it works the local health board may take over and pay for it."
Melanie was diagnosed with breast cancer four-and-a-half-years ago and was told in 2014 that she had just five years to live.
"People are being lovely and I can't get over how generous people are about this," she said. "But it's still there in the back of your mind that you are having to ask people to part with their money, whereas if I lived somewhere else in the UK I would just get it on the NHS."
Melanie said she is living her life in three-month cycles, from one scan to the next.
"It's a horrible situation," she said. "While there are no guarantees to the drug, some people respond really well to it."
"You can't predict how long you have on something; it might not work but when you are 40 and have a small child you take whatever you can to try and raise your kids."