'I've got three months to live' - Man with brain tumour in race against time to get pioneering treatment
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Published 11/08/2016 | 13:00
The wife of a civil engineer has made a desperate plea to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for lifesaving treatment for her husband, who has been told he has only months left.
Natasha Carey (nee Healey) lives in Portglenone, Co Antrim with her husband Kevin, who was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour.
Kevin's last hope is pioneering immunotherapy treatment - but it costs over £200,000 (€232,800), as it is only available privately.
Natasha and Kevin, who have been married for over six years, were on a trip to Portstewart in July last year when he became unwell and suddenly took a number of seizures.
He was rushed to hospital where he was misdiagnosed with sudden onset epilepsy.
But after arranging their own MRI scan Kevin, a former GAA player, was given the devastating diagnosis of glioblastoma - an aggressive grade four terminal brain tumour.
He underwent gruelling treatment involving major brain surgery in September last year. This was followed by six weeks of radio-chemotherapy, then six months of full strength chemotherapy to blast the last remaining cancer cells.
The Portglenone man, who is described by Natasha as "wonderful, kind and funny", remained positive and determined throughout his treatment.
Then in June this year medics told the couple the treatment worked and to book a holiday. However, days before they were to jet off Kevin fell ill again, and a year to the day he was first diagnosed, Kevin was given the heartbreaking news that the treatment hadn't worked.
Natasha, who works as an optician for the NHS, said the tumour was growing so aggressively it had wrapped itself around major arteries, making it's way higher up into Kevin's brain.
"Two weeks ago we were told Kevin had a three-month life expectancy, even with more chemotherapy," she said.
"Kevin had to make a rapid decision to choose whether or not to undergo risky specialist neurosurgery away from home in London to try again to remove the bulk of the tumour. He is the bravest, most fearless man I know and replied to the three-month life expectancy news with: 'I won't be beaten, I want to fight'.
"We got on the next flight to London, where Kevin had fully awake, local anaesthetic, brain surgery, which lasted a gruelling five hours. His head was put in a metal clamp and a saw was used to open the skull.
"They gave him a few sedatives to calm his nerves and that was it. The surgery was a horrific experience for Kevin.
"One experienced neurosurgeon said it was one of the hardest things she has ever had to witness. Kevin has taught them, and me, what strength really means."
The neurosurgeons managed to remove almost 97% of the tumour. But the remaining 3-5% is still aggressive, and it's a race against the clock now to try to halt its growth.
Their only hope at a chance to prolong his life, and put an end to this horrific ordeal, is pioneering immunotherapy in London.
Natasha explained: "Immunotherapy teaches the immune system to find and attack the brain cancer cells, however it is only available privately and will cost £205,000 (€238,580). We are putting all our personal finances, every penny we have, into funding this treatment, plus travelling back and forth to London, but we can't meet it alone."
Last night, almost £40,000 (€46,548) had been raised for Kevin on his fundraising page on the first day. An emotional Natasha said she was "overwhelmed and amazed" by the response.