Epworth mum’s cash appeal to fund cancer treatment

Anna Verrico with children Lucio and Alexandro.
Anna Verrico with children Lucio and Alexandro.

An Epworth family has launched an appeal to raise cash after a mum’s return to ill health just weeks after being told she was in remission.

The treatment they are hoping to raise the money to pay for is a revolutionary new one that could change the way all cancers are treated.

Anna Verrico, 36, mum to Lucia, aged 3, and Alexandro, who is 16 months, was diagnosed with breast cancer last November, suffering from a variety of the disease called triple negative which typically affects younger woman and does not respond to hormone treatment.

Following the horror of a mastectomy and six cycles of chemotherapy, Anna and her family, who live at Field Reeves Walk, were overjoyed when she was given the all-clear in April.

However, the story was far from finished.

On September 21, whilst training for the one-mile Epworth Fun Run – which she entered to raise cash for cancer charities – Anna developed a chest infection and, as a precaution, the family went back to the surgeon who had initially treated her in Sheffield.

He told them: “Sorry – the cancer has spread. Your time is limited.” Anna’s oncologist told the family the same thing.

“The news came completely out of the blue,” said husband Paul. “It was just devastating.”

Paul however snapped into action and began a search on social media to see if he could find a cure.

“I contacted 750,000 in all using Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter and one name kept coming back – Harley St specialist Professor Justin Stebbing, currently a nominee in the Daily Mail’s Health Hero awards for 2013.

Anna saw him the following week and treatment commenced immediately.

“Anna managed to complete the fun run but he told us that she had extreme hypoxia, which means her body was notgetting the oxygen its needs and that she shouldn’t have been able to walk, let alone run a mile.”

Last week Anna had her lung drained and its lining removed and is currently waiting to recover enough from the op for chemo to begin.

Her chemo will benefit from revolutionary new techniques in which a portion of her tumour will be removed and then cloned 100 times.

Each clone will then be tested with a chemotherapy drug or a combination of drugs to see which cocktail will most benefit Anna, a finance controller.

“The alternative is trying out the drugs on Anna – and if you get that wrong, it could be fatal. It’s just amazing that advances in science have gone so far that this is available.”

However it comes at a cost – three years ago the treatment Anna is receiving would have cost £500,000. Today the cost is £20,000 – still a great deal of money.

“Choosing to go ahead with the treatment was a no-brainer, but it’s not covered by our insurance,” Paul said. “The NHS won’t pay for it – it’s just too expensive.”

A new social media campaign has been launched to fund treatment – already raised £3,500 in its first week.

“People have been amazing,” health and safety solicitor Paul said. “Sue Taylor of the Isle Lose It fitness camp is selling a cookbook to raise cash for us and the photographer from the fun run, Steve Otway, is asking people to donate £5 if they want a photo from the race.

Other local businesses who have rallied to the cause include Peak Physique Gym, Metres to Miles and the Sunspot Hair Salon, but the family – who raised £20,000 for cancer research before realising that they would need to raise cash for their own good cause – are still hoping that more people will come forward.