A 32-year-old Ripon woman who has been told she only has months to live after the return of cervical cancer is hoping pioneering medical treatment will give her a fighting chance to live. Reporter JAMES METCALF spoke to Leigh Naylor.
Leigh Naylor was told by medical experts in March that she had just between nine and 12 months to live after the return of her cervical cancer, from which she was given the all clear in 2010.
Refusing to accept the aggressive chemotherapy treatment on offer in the UK, the 32-year-old started a search for clinics abroad that might be able to save her life.
Leigh, who in the past four years has raised more than £20,000 for others affected by the disease following her first diagnosis, has now embarked on her own fund raising drive to meet the cost of around £50,000 for pioneering medical treatment in Germany.
“I have cancer in two lymph nodes. One has stayed the same and the other one has a hole in it which means it is dying,” says Leigh, who is operations director at the Foundation group of companies in Ripon, a financial services and recruitment firm.
Although clinics in Germany cannot guarantee to cure somebody of cancer, they are known to have had success with hyperthemia treatments in which the body’s immune system is built up to help it fight the disease.
“Chemotherapy just poisons your body and my time wouldn’t have been good quality. But the amount of people actually cured from the treatment in Germany is amazing,” she says.
“People have gone there in wheelchairs with weeks to live and have had them turned into months that were also good quality. That is as important as giving people a cure.
“It is not necessarily about just curing people because, unfortunately, some people can’t be cured but it is about giving people extra time and quality time.”
Leigh recently returned from her first series of treatments but to go back in August, as planned, she needs to raise further funds.
“I have had some big success in three weeks. It is still at an early stage but the initial treatment and the scans are all showing what they planned it to,” says Leigh.
“There is quite a long wait to go but it is a good start. There are very few side effects when you compare it to chemotherapy.
“In the three weeks there one of the tumours has shrunk by half a centimetre and the tissue has gone from hard to soft, which is better.”
To pay for her first treatment, Leigh had organised fund raising events which will now continue in the coming months as she plans her return to Germany for further treatment.
“We wanted to get to Germany as soon as possible and the donations we reached meant that we had enough to pay for the entire treatment without having to go into any overdraft. That was a big weight lifted off my shoulders.”
Leigh and her friends will be holding a family fun day at Ripon Rugby Club on Sunday, May 25, at 1pm, where they will host the Ripon’s Got Talent competition and have bouncy castles, cake stalls and a hog roast.
They are also holding a dinner dance at The Watermill, Carlton Miniott near Thirsk, on Saturday, May 31, at 7pm. There they will auction and raffle prizes, including a signed Leeds Rhinos rugby league shirt, a football from Middlesbrough FC, and tickets to Sheffield United FC.
“We have got between now and the beginning of August to find another £5,000 to £10,000,” says Leigh, who anticipates the treatment of her cancer will require regular trips to Germany.
“It is probably going to be every two to three months for two to three weeks that I will need to go back, until it is small enough to operate on.”
As for her future plans, Leigh is as committed to making a difference to other people affected by cancer as she is determined to have a positive but realistic outlook.
“I want to talk to people about treatment. Just because the NHS here can’t do anything, that doesn’t mean there is nothing elsewhere,” she said.
“There will be continuing fund raising, focusing on doing what I can to help the many people in this position.”
l If you would like to help Leigh with her medical bills, visit her website at www.leighnaylor.co.uk