Highlands & Islands

Roz Paterson's battle for cancer treatment in US

Roz Paterson and her children Image copyright Roz Paterson
Image caption Roz Paterson with her children Thea and David

A mother-of-two hoping to raise £500,000 for potentially lifesaving cancer treatment in the US has spoken of her determination to survive.

Roz Paterson has been told she could have just weeks to live because of her cancer's resistance to chemotherapy.

The treatment she is seeking is currently unavailable in Scotland, and she is not eligible for it in England.

The 52-year-old from Glasgow, now living in Beauly, is trying to raise the money through crowdfunding.

She said there was the "dark possibility" the treatment might not work, but added that she did not have the "luxury of time" to dwell on that prospect.

With help from friends and family, she has set up a crowdfunding campaign to raise the hundreds of thousands pounds for Car-T Cell Therapy using a medicine called Kymriah at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium has been reviewing the use of Kymriah for the treatment of adult patients with large B-cell lymphoma, who have already had two or more lines of treatment. It will publish its advice on 11 March.

'That conversation'

Roz was first diagnosed with lymphoma cancer last summer.

She told BBC Radio Scotland's Mornings With Kaye Adams programme: "It is a very common form of cancer, but what is unusual is that I am in that small percentage that chemotherapy is ineffective for."

In September, it became evident that chemotherapy was not working.

Image copyright Roz Paterson
Image caption Roz' cancer is resistant to chemotherapy

She said: "I was nine weeks into my treatment and I had been hospitalised for sepsis, which is not unusual with chemotherapy, and they decided to do a scan just to make sure everything was on course.

"And at that point they discovered the tumour had shrunk a little, but just a little."

Roz said she could feel herself the tumour in her abdomen "bulking up and coming back again".

"It got to the point in December the consultant said to me it was possibly weeks that I had weeks left because the tumours were growing so exponentially.

"They (consultants) have to be candid. They have to warn you.

"I said 'do I really need to have that conversation with the children?' He was a lovely man, I think he was as devastated as I was, and he said 'yes, it was time for that'."

She said her and her husband Malcolm McDonald, 62, have been open about her health with their children Thea, 13, David, 10.

'Sheer naked terror'

The family already had previous experience with cancer. Roz lost a close friend to cancer in 2012 and her father died following a long battle with the disease in 2013.

She said: "The word 'cancer' is terrifying. It was something we knew about and very frightened about. It was sheer naked terror."

Describing her children's handling of her situation as "amazing", she added: "They can get up in the morning and go to school and be normal, but now there is this attention and they are the son and daughter of the woman at the centre of this attention."

Friends and family along with the community of Beauly have rallied around the effort to race the hundreds of thousands of pounds by February to give Roz the chance of being treated in the US.

The treatment she is seeking is not currently available in Scotland and Roz said funding to have the treatment done in England was not approved.

"Everyone knows there is not a lot of time," said Roz, who sought treatment outside of the UK by searching the internet. "They are raising money through everything from putting on gigs to selling cupcakes.

The intensive treatment in the US involves harvesting cells and "reprogramming them to be able to instruct cancer cells to die," said Roz.

Image copyright Roz Paterson
Image caption Roz and her family have received huge support from their local community

Phil Reynolds, of blood cancer research charity Bloodwise, told the Mornings with Kaye Adams programme that Car-T Cell Therapy was still a new form of treatment.

He said so far it had a 30-40% success rate and three quarters of those who receive it experience "severe side effects".

"I think it depends on the person," he said. "We have seen stories and some early stage data that shows that some people can make a really miraculous recovery.

"But unfortunately Car-T is a very complex therapy. So although it can give people an extra chance we don't know that it will work for everybody.

"And that is the dilemma for the body that is assessing it at the moment, the Scottish Medicines Consortium. It is an expensive treatment and when it works, it works really well, but there is still a lot of uncertainty."

Roz said that apart from the cancer, she felt healthy and strong enough to handle the therapy and the recovery process that would follow it.

She added: "Everybody doing stuff on my behalf has lifted that burden off me and I am able to concentrate on the medical side of things and the mechanics of moving the family to Boston for my intensive medical treatment.

"They have lifted me up, I don't have words to describe what this means to me."

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