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'Never underestimate someone's will to live'

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The news that NICE are not going to fund a new breast cancer drug had personal resonance for student nurse, Caroline

NICE have refused to fund a life-saving drug which can help women with terminal breast cancer live an extra six months.

Six months in the scheme of a lifetime doesn’t seem long, at first thought. In our cash-strapped NHS, money must go to the most effective outcomes and an additional six months of life may not be seen as an ‘effective’ outcome to a lot of people.

It is a good outcome, however, to women who want to see their children finish the school year. Those who would love to see another Christmas. Or to celebrate one more birthday.

Six months is enough time to plan a funeral, to leave a legacy, to make memories.

It is the time to take a few more breaths, more steps, to enjoy more mornings alive.

How can those things be financially justified?

I don’t know who is at fault here. I appreciate the government has limited resources. I appreciate, in the scheme of things, that palliative care is perceived as low priority and extending life, when death is inevitable, may be seen as fruitless.

But what about the pharmaceutical manufacturers who profit from life extending treatment? Despite their responsibilities to the shareholders, are they prioritising life itself over quality of living? How can the chief executives of those companies enjoy their lifestyles, knowing people are dying earlier than they could be because they want to make a profit?

These companies need to make money to cover the costs of research and to make a living, but beyond this, is there any need to make millions?

I write this as someone whose own mother died of breast cancer, who once said to me “never underestimate someone’s will to live”.

Six months to us would have meant a holiday. It would have meant more time to discuss what should have been, what would later be, and what would never be. It would have brought acceptance, it would have bought time.

“Six months to us would have brought acceptance”

Time is the most important thing we have in life. Not money. Not success.

It is the only thing we do not think of, until it is taken from us.

Six months is not long in the grand scheme, but to women dying of breast cancer it is an eternity. To deny it for the sake of cost is unfair. To deny it in order to gain profit and lifestyle for a minority is unforgivable.


Caroline Estrella is a third year adult branch student at Nottingham University

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Readers' comments (1)

  • True! I know someone confined to bed, on continuous 02,(Lung Cancer with extensive metastasis, including brain)and told she was dying, asked to be moved into a hospice for her last few hours. They reorganised her drugs-she went home to live 9 months during which time,she bought a villa in Portugal, went there on holiday with her family 3 times, went to Ascot races and started horse riding again. Whilst riding, a car sped past, the horse shyed, she jolted her neck and was in pain. I suggest she went back to the Hospice in case the brain tumor had bleed, She died 3 days later after nine, glorious months of extra life. They have to right to live every extra minute new drugs can give them, after all, a cure may be just around the corner.

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