Tuesday 12 December 2017

Mother who fought for cancer drug access dies

CAMPAIGNER: Cathy Durkin has died at age 41, leaving a husband and three young children
CAMPAIGNER: Cathy Durkin has died at age 41, leaving a husband and three young children

MAEVE SHEEHAN

THE mother who spearheaded the campaign that forced the health authorities into a U-turn in providing expensive life-improving cancer drugs has lost her fight for life.

Cathy Durkin, who was 41 and the mother of three young children, died at 7.30am yesterday at St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin. She passed away just four months after launching a hugely successful campaign to make the cancer drug, Ipilimumab -- known as Ipi -- available to Irish sufferers of the disease.

The drug, which costs €85,000 for a course of treatments, had been denied her by the Health Service Executive.

In emotional interviews last April, she said she believed the drug was her only chance of extending her life with her three children but the health service refused to pay for it.

She told her story on Joe Duffy's radio show and started a blog, prompting a fundraising campaign, which forced the State into a U-turn. The HSE agreed to make the drug available to about 60 Irish sufferers of the disease.

She finally started her treatment in St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin in May, a week after she appeared on The Late Late Show.

Her friend, Karen Meenan, who worked on her campaign, said yesterday: "Cathy Durkin passed away at 7.30 this morning, surrounded by her husband Michael and her family in St Vincent's Private Hospital. She had asked for visitors so we were lucky enough to see her over the last week or two. She was chatty and in good form but very sick -- she was asking for everyone.

"She fought very bravely and was putting on a happy face to all visitors even to the very end. Cathy fought with the HSE and with the Department of Health to get the melanoma cancer treatment drug Ipilimumab available for all who need it."

Cathy's funeral will take place on Tuesday in Holy Trinity Church, Donaghmede. She is survived by Michael and her children Alex, Alyssa and Conor.

On her blog, she wrote: "In June of 2011, I began to see flashing lights in my right eye. I went to the optician who diagnosed me with a torn retina. I was sent straight to the Mater Hospital where I was diagnosed with ocular melanoma.

"From there, I was sent to the Eye and Ear Hospital where I was told that the tumour was 11.6mm and the only option was to remove the eye. My eye was removed on the 19th of July 2011 -- one of the worst days of my life."

Later that year, she learnt the cancer had spread to her hip, then her liver. By May, more than €72,000 had been raised for the Cathy Durkin Treatment Fund.

Sunday Independent

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