Cancer, clinical trials and novel treatment: Jess’s story
“I said to people ‘I’m so lucky I’m at Weston Park."
Since 1999, we’ve proudly provided funding for Weston Park Cancer Centre’s Cancer Clinical Trials Centre (CCTC). This has ensured that cancer patients in our region continue to benefit from high-quality novel cancer research and clinical trials.
Clinical trials, including those carried out in Sheffield, often result in novel treatment methods becoming the standard of care worldwide. Their importance is underlined by Jess’s story.
When Jess was told she had a brain tumour in 2012, the diagnosis came totally out of the blue.
After being found having a fit one night by her partner, Jess was rushed to hospital – it took several hours to stabilise her. Afterwards, Jess and her family spoke to a doctor at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, where her diagnosis was confirmed.
Jess doesn’t remember the conversation at all. After being given steroids and anticonvulsants to prevent her fitting again, just days later, she had surgery to remove as much of her tumour as possible, and was allowed to go home.
However, not long after Jess started radiotherapy, her consultant told her about a novel type of treatment which had been trialled for five years in the USA and was due to become available in Sheffield.
On average, the type of tumour Jess had would normally show signs of progression 50 months – just over four years – after initial conventional treatment.
However, after Jess became the first person at Weston Park to benefit from adjuvant PCV chemotherapy, a novel treatment method, that increased this to 157 months – more than 12 years.
Previous standard of care was surgery followed by radiotherapy, with chemotherapy saved for any recurrence; however, trials had shown that administering chemotherapy straight after radiotherapy would improve outcomes.
And, just over 10 years on, Jess is thankful for the way her novel treatment has extended her life greatly and that of all places, she has gone through what she has in Sheffield.
“I just collapsed into tears when I arrived home after surgery,” said Jess.
“But up until the point of my radiotherapy treatment starting, I thought I only had a few years to live. It’s a rare tumour, but the results of this type of treatment are incredible.
“The timing was remarkable and it just seemed amazing that it was available. As soon as the opportunity came about I couldn’t turn it down.”
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Jess also explained the difference which nurses at Weston Park made since she was diagnosed.
“It was very reassuring having the nurses there while I was going through treatment,” said Jess.
“And they have been ever since, too. As well as supporting me through my treatment, they have helped make sure I can access the right disability benefits as I cannot work due to my illness.
“When I was having my chemotherapy, there were times when I had to follow specific diets and experienced big changes to my lifestyle. And the nurses were there to support me through some extremely challenging times.”
Jess explained her mixed feelings at passing 10 years since her initial diagnosis after having treatment which has ultimately extended her life greatly.
Jess said: “I’m now at 10 years, which does feel a bit odd.
“On one level it’s amazing, but on the other it’s been very hard. Living with cancer is really hard and the element of doubt brings about a lot of anxiety.
“I have to rest in the afternoon because of the way my cancer and treatment affected me; and unfortunately we couldn’t afford to live in our old house, which we loved. So that was really, really hard.
“But so far, 10 years on, I’m as alright as I can be.”
Emma Clarke, Chief Executive Officer at Weston Park Cancer Charity, said: “Jess’s story is extremely powerful and one which really resonates with us at Weston Park Cancer Charity.
“This is the true impact of Weston Park, both the hospital and the charity – we want to care in every sense for people going through cancer, and keep families together for as long as possible.
“Enabling research, including clinical trials similar to the one which has benefitted Jess so much, and supporting patients through trials is an essential part of what we do as a charity. The team at Sheffield’s Cancer Clinical Trials Centre do an incredible job guiding, supporting and recruiting patients here in Sheffield and we’re extremely proud to support their work.”
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