A BOWEL cancer patient claims she was fobbed off by GPs for ten months before getting treatment – despite “filling cups with blood” when she went to the toilet.
Gemma Epstein is now battling for life, paying around £2,000 a month for drugs she can’t get on the NHS, and trying to fund last-ditch treatment in Germany that could cost as much as £300,000.
The 37-year-old believes that had family doctors acted sooner on her health fears she might not be facing such a bleak future.
Her friends and family recently launched an online funding appeal to try to pay for the drugs and treatment she desperately needs.
Gemma, from Middleton, Greater Manchester, first went to her doctor in the spring of 2015.
The veterinary receptionist is currently too ill to give interviews but her sister, Becky, 34, said: “She was going to the GP in pain and she was filling cups full of blood.
“They kept telling her nothing was wrong and they couldn’t find anything.”
It was not until April 2016, after repeated visits to GP practices in NHS Greater Manchester and NHS England North, that Gemma was finally referred to a consultant.
She underwent surgery and numerous rounds of chemotherapy and believed she was in remission until doctors told her the disease had spread to her lungs, hip bone, brain and is affected half of her liver.
Becky says her sister has been told by the NHS there is nothing more they can do to tackle the disease.
She said: “If the cancer was caught sooner it would have been operated on sooner.
“Gemma’s angry that they haven’t given her a full body scan. They have only scanned one area at a time when she says they’re hurting.
“She feels it could all have been caught much sooner if she had been given a full body scan.”
She added: “She was really let down when she was suffering with severe headaches and went to A&E but was left in a side room for 14 hours as nobody knew what to do.
“There was no room on the wards and it turned out she had fluid and swelling on her brain.”
Gemma has started paying for Avastin in the hope it will shrink her tumours, paying about £2,000 a month. Gemma says she has been told by the NHS she cannot have the drug.
Becky said: “The NHS stopped making it available because they didn’t see any good results with it. Everyone responds differently to it but Avastin should be made available if it works.”
The family’s final hope is private immunotherapy treatment in Germany that could cost in excess of £200,000.
But Becky explained: “Avastin is our last hope at the moment. Gemma needs to find the strength to go to Germany but she’s just too poorly.
“Every day is a bad one at the moment. She feels very low and she is struggling to walk because her liver is in so much pain. Since the cancer reached her brain a few months ago she has deteriorated.
“Every result she’s had has been bad news.”
Becky and the family are hoping to raise money to help with the private costs, asking on the fundraising page for “any kind donations to help Gemma get the treatment she so desperately deserves.
“My family and I hate to ask, but time is running out for such a special and inspirational young girl who has already endured such devastation yet still putsup a strong fight.”
To donate: https://www.gofundme.com/doing-it-for-gemma