A GAINSBOROUGH dad’s fight for life-extending cancer drugs continues as he looks forward to what could be the last Christmas with his children.
Former soldier Mark Bannister, 37, slammed health authorities in September when they refused to prescribe cancer-fighting drug Avastin, which could slow the growth of his brain tumour.
But there is fresh hope for Mark, who lives in Springfield Close with wife Karen and kids Sophie, six and Thomas, four.
He has started a new course of chemotherapy treatment called PCV, and early results show the tumour has not grown.
“I have tried PCV in the past but it hasn’t worked for me,” said Mark.
“But this time it seems to be different. My latest scan shows there has been no change in the tumour since the last scan.”
Mark has battled the disease for eight years, undergoing three operations and various courses of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
But when the last course of chemo was not successful, doctors have told him without further treatment he may only have 12 months to live.
“It has been a blow that I can’t get Avastin but I’m prepared to keep on fighting.”
“I had my fingers crossed that this would happen, hopefully the PCV treatment will give me more time and eventually I might get the drugs I really need.”
Mark’s oncologist recommended Avastin because it could give him another 12 months, but the NHS will not pay for it because of where his GP surgery is - in Gainsborough.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says at £21,000 a course, Avastin is not cost effective for use by the NHS.
Funding for Avastin therefore lies with the Cancer Drugs Fund which lets local NHS authorities choose which drugs are bought for patients with certain cancers.
His application to the local Cancer Drugs Fund has already been turned down.
NHS East Midlands does not fund Avastin for brain cancer patients, but NHS Yorkshire and the Humber does.
This means it is available for patients just 15 miles away in Scunthorpe, and in Sheffield where Mark had all of his cancer treatment, but not in Gainsborough.
Mark said: “I’m just so angry that people can play with your life by saying who can and can’t have treatment.”
“They are playing God.”
Letters to Gainsborough MP Edward Leigh, Sheffield MP Nick Clegg and Government health secretary Andrew Landsley, have been met with sympathy but a lack of action.
“It’s disappointing that we haven’t heard much from them, but the support from our Macmillan nurses is second to none,” said Mark.
“They seem to think that if we keep fighting I will get the treatment I need - they know other people who have been successful.”
Now, the Bannisters are focusing on spending quality time as a family.
“During the summer we had a day out to Chessington World of Adventures - the kids loved that.”
“And we’d like to go to Blackpool to see the lights - I went as a kid and I want to see my kids’ experience it.”
Christmas is also fast approaching, and Karen is busy making all the preparations so that this year is extra special.
“She is doing an amazing job. Without her organisation and determination I don’t know where we’d be,” said Mark.
The couple are also looking forward to a huge ceremony at the end of the month to mark their wedding vow renewals.
Mark said: “We’ll have loads of friends and family there, Karen is going to be wearing a beautiful gown and Sophie and Thomas have got special outfits too - they think we’re really getting married.”
“It’s going to be an emotional day but we are really looking forward to it.”
Messages of support have continued to flood in on Facebook, where Mark’s plight has struck a chord.
“We haven’t had as many people sign the petition as we had hoped, but all the comments are just overwhelming,” said Mark.
Search Facebook for Mark Bannister’s Urgent Appeal For Treatment or go to www.designcupboard. co.uk/mark/petition.php to sign the petition.