Cancer mum's postcode lottery hell
A MUM who has had an agonising wait to be diagnosed with a rare form of cancer is still waiting to find out if she will have the go-ahead for life-changing treatment because she lives in Wales.
Lian Gittus fears she could be the victim of a postcode lottery over her care and said she was told by a specialist that if she lived in England she would be able to go to America to have proton therapy.
The treatment is such a precise form of radiotherapy it can target the cancer down to a hair's breadth. It could also allow the 33-year-old, of Godre'rgraig, to go back to living her life.
But now Mrs Gittus faces undergoing receptor medicated radiotherapy (RMRT) which she said she has been told was a less effective form of treatment.
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A Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee spokesman said proton beam therapy for Welsh residents is commissioned on a very limited basis.
Mrs Gittus, who was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma last autumn, said: "I believe if I lived in England the specialist would send me for proton therapy in America, but because I live in Wales there may not be funding to send people abroad for treatment.
"It's like a postcode lottery.
"In England they have a fund for 40 patients to go to America to have proton therapy."
She added: "I have a rare form of cancer on the spine and I have gone from walking and being fit and active as a PCSO (police community support officer) to being hardly able to walk.
"The tumour was so bad that I became incontinent for a while.
"If I have an operation it could leave me paralysed and on crutches for the rest of my life — my choice would be to have proton therapy. I want to go back and live a normal life."
She revealed she would have to raise between £75,000 and £100,000 if she had to pay for the US-based treatment herself and would have to do so in the space of the next three to four weeks.
Mrs Gittus said funding would also be needed to cover the cost of her former bomb disposal expert and former BT worker husband Jason, 38, travelling to America with her.
It was around Christmas 2010 that she first started to suffer pain in her right leg and she said she was originally given painkillers for a pulled muscle.
Following a series of MRI scans she was asked to return to the hospital last July. She said it was only then she was told that there was a tumour on her spine.
She said: "The tumour has grown so big it's grown out of the bone and it growing on the outside."
A Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee spokesman said: "The Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee (WHSSC) does not comment on individual patient cases. We are, however, happy to discuss any issues patients or their next of kin may have directly with them.
"Proton beam therapy for Welsh residents is currently commissioned on a very limited basis from a small number of providers outside the UK.
"All potential cases are assessed by the UK clinical advisory panel for proton beam therapy, which then makes recommendations for treatment. All recommendations must be approved by WHSSC on an individual basis."
A spokeswoman for ABMU health board said: "We were contacted yesterday by the Evening Post and asked for a response within a few hours. This did not allow us sufficient time to attempt to gain consent from the patient to discuss her case, or to contact the clinicians involved in her care to gather the details needed to respond. However, we can confirm that we have received a claim from the patient and we are looking into it."