Cancer sufferer's joy as drug she fought for has shrunken her tumours
A breast cancer sufferer from Co Down who was told in 2014 she had only five years to live has revealed how a drug she battled hard to get prescribed on the NHS has led to the disease almost disappearing.
Bangor mum-of-two Melanie Kennedy said her "tears of joy today cannot be underestimated" after finding out her tumours had "reduced by a vast amount".
"As I celebrate and look forward to another wonderful Christmas with my boys, my family, my friends - which we can never take for granted - I raise a glass to all of you who have given a gift that money cannot buy," Melanie wrote on Facebook.
The 40-year-old discovered she had the disease in January 2013, six months after giving birth. She had a mastectomy, chemotheraphy and radiotheraphy.
A year after her initial diagnosis, however, doctors told her the cancer had spread to her liver and her condition was terminal.
Melanie learnt about a drug, Kadcyla, that could extend her life and enable her to spend more time with sons Josh and AJ. It was available free of charge in Scotland, but not in Northern Ireland.
Melanie launched a Facebook page, NI Cancer Advocacy Movement, and raised money through crowdfunding for the drug. But a funding U-turn in Northern Ireland in July meant she could finally avail of it on the NHS here.
"After four months of Kadcyla I am delighted to report that the largest of my tumours - 'Trevor' - has reduced by a vast amount and that he is pretty much the only bit of disease now left," Melanie told her supporters.
"The tears of joy today cannot be underestimated and I owe it to all of you, the people of Northern Ireland, who have done so much more than just make this little family very happy.
"I am just the public face of this problem, please know that you have helped many others who need this drug.
"The past four months I have been so well and I have used that health to work almost full-time.
"I will continue to do so, as I know I must use this blessing to change the situation for others."