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Margaretlee a true inspiration

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 15/05/2015

David Brennan and Margaretlee Hilton with their daughter Amy
David Brennan and Margaretlee Hilton with their daughter Amy

These should be the happiest days of Margaretlee Hilton's life. She is four months pregnant and desperately hoping to have a little brother or sister for her nine-year-old daughter after the heartbreak of a stillbirth and a miscarriage in recent years.

But even those dreadful events were overshadowed by the diagnosis the 33-year-old Belfast woman was given in February when she was told she was terminally ill with advanced pancreatic cancer. Doctors said her best hope was to have a Caesarian section at 28 weeks and then go home to die.

However, there is another ray of hope in the shape of ground-breaking treatment only available in Mexico, which could grant Margaretlee her dearest wish - to live long enough to see her baby born, give its first smile, say its first words, take its first steps and even go to school for the first time.

It would take a heart of stone not to be moved by her plight and her wish, and already £16,000 of the £40,000 needed for the treatment has been raised. If this treatment can fulfil Margaretlee's wish then it will be cheap at the price, and we have no doubt that Northern Ireland's ever generous public will rally to the cause.

What this case again illustrates is the insidious reach of cancer in all its forms. It is now Northern Ireland's biggest killer even though more and more people are surviving thanks to improved treatment regimes and earlier diagnosis. Around 11,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and that is expected to rise annually by more than 3%. Against that background, cancer care and availability of life-extending drugs should be at the top of the in-tray of new Health Minister Simon Hamilton.

One of his first decisions will be whether to reintroduce prescription charges to fund more expensive drugs for cancer patients. We don't have access to 40 cancer drugs that are available elsewhere in the UK because of lack of money. That is a scandal given the waste that takes place at Stormont.

The architects of the NHS rightly regarded it as pillar of society but it is crumbling under the demands of our ageing population, even if staff continue to do sterling work against all the odds. Most people would be willing to contribute a little more to provide an improved service. In the meantime, we hope that Margaretlee will see the money pour in and her most fervent wish come true.

Belfast Telegraph

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