Don't give up hope of cure, says widower

The widower of a cancer victim who sold the family home to pay for potentially lifesaving treatment unavailable on the NHS is now developing a website to help other people in the same situation.

The widower of a cancer victim who sold the family home to pay for potentially lifesaving treatment unavailable on the NHS is now developing a website to help other people in the same situation.

When John Munro's wife Debbie was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2004, she was told there was nothing more the NHS could do for her, the cancer was terminal.

What doctors did not tell her was that a drug called Avastin which had the potential to cure her cancer did exist, but was just not available on the NHS.

Instead, it took the couple six months of extensive research to find out treatment was available, where they could get it and how much this would cost - six months which doctors in the USA believe may have cost Mrs Munro her life.

Now, Mr Munro is determined to help other people diagnosed terminally ill, by creating a website containing detailed information about medical treatment available around the world.

He said: “NHS doctors are being made to be dishonest. Often when a doctor tells you there is nothing they can do for you it is based on a financial, not a medical judgement.

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“If we had gone to America the day Deb was diagnosed, her doctor told us she would almost certainly have survived, but it took us six months of research to get there.

“My advice to other people in the same situation is if the NHS say that's it, don't take it as red. If you were told your car had gone wrong you'd take it to a couple of garages. How many insurance quotes do we all get? But if a doctor tells us something we just accept it.

“I can't offer people hope, but I can give them information to find out for themselves.”

After discovering there was treatment available, Mr and Mrs sold their £185,000 home in Ormesby, near Yarmouth and flew to California, where Mrs Munro underwent treatment.

Her moving fight for life also prompted crime writer Patricia Cornwell to give the family £30,000 towards her care.

But sadly, Mrs Munro's cancer had spread significantly in the six months since her diagnosis, and in August 2005, at the age of 45, she lost her fight for life.

While Mr Munro maintains he is not bitter about his wife's death, he believes it is an injustice that terminally ill people are not told about all treatment available, citing breast cancer sufferer Barbara Clark as an example of someone who has fought for treatment and won.

Ms Clark formed a case under the Human Rights Act after she was refused the breast cancer drug Herceptin, and finally Somerset Coast PCT backed down and agreed to prescribe it for her. Although her cancer is not cured, her life expectancy has been extended considerably.

Now Mr Munro is working with clinics around the world to develop a website that gives people detailed information about the care available at every stage of an illness.

When the site launches in January it will initially deal with cancer care, by Mr Munro is hoping to roll it out to help with other illnesses.

He said: “It is just so wrong this is happening to so many people every day. On the website I'm not recommending people go to one clinic or another, I just want to let them know what is there so they can decide for themselves,” he said.

He added: “If this website saved just one person then that would be worth everything”

Mr Munro is now asking anyone who may be interested in helping with the website, including sponsors, people with information and those who may wish to feature on it to contact him by emailing him at munrothirlwall@aol.com.