Belfast Telegraph

Joy as Bangor mum who fought to get NHS drug is told she's cancer-free

Bangor mum Melanie Kennedy and her sons AJ and Josh
Bangor mum Melanie Kennedy and her sons AJ and Josh

By Brett Campbell

A Bangor mother-of-two who fought for access to life-saving treatment after a terminal diagnosis has said politicians should be ashamed after she was declared cancer-free.

Tireless campaigner Melanie Kennedy (41) was given the "phenomenal" news yesterday afternoon following a routine scan more than four years after doctors told her she was terminally ill.

"I'm delighted, it's fantastic news," she said. "There's no perceptible disease in my liver which is phenomenal - I never thought this day would come."

Melanie was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, but just one year later and within three months of being declared cancer-free she learned that the disease had spread to her liver.

"I was told it was terminal," she said.

She began a fight to get private access to Kadcyla treatment after the NHS refused to provide it, and was living from scan to scan.

Health officials eventually backed down after Melanie's friends helped her raise the money to fund the treatment which specifically targets secondary breast cancer cells.

Last night she was at home rejoicing with her two sons Josh (17) and AJ (6).

"Josh is very happy, but the youngest one doesn't really understand - I've been getting treatment ever since he was born so he just thinks I go to hospital as part of my job," she said.

But despite the celebration, Melanie admitted feeling "angry and frustrated" on behalf of the countless other cancer patients who are denied life-saving drugs. She vowed to continue fighting on their behalf.

"No one should have to fight for access to treatment which is readily available in other parts of the UK," she said. "I shouldn't have had to either.

"But I'm so glad I did and that I never gave up - especially on the dark and foggy days.

"I probably wouldn't be here with my two young boys if I didn't fight, so I will continue that fight for everyone else and thankfully from a better place - but I will never take my health for granted," she said.

The NI Cancer Advocacy founder said nobody who has received a life-shattering diagnosis should be forced to fight a failing system.

"I am contacted by people needing help on a daily basis," Melanie said.

"NHS staff are just as frustrated - I think Department of Health officials and politicians need to take a long hard look in the mirror today and be ashamed."

The charity founder slammed the health system which she said forces oncologists to prove patients will benefit from treatment before they can avail of it.

"It's a gate-keeping exercise to stop people accessing expensive drugs and it is not acceptable," she said. "There is more to be done in this fight."

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