Ask anyone who’s had cancer and they will agree – we all worry about it coming back. We worry about it spreading to other organs. In fact we worry about that more because once cancer from the breast or testicles or colon or anywhere in the body metastasizes to another organ or the bones or the brain, it is no longer curable. It’s ‘treatable’, but ultimately it’s terminal.
That’s why a lot of cancer patients don’t like all the ‘battle’ jargon associated with cancer. If you’ve valiantly ‘fought’ cancer and then it reappears a few months later in your liver, there is a connotation of you not having fought hard enough, not having given it all you’ve got. Somehow you let the enemy through your defences. You let your guard down.
Obviously that is just not the case. Tragically, the real battle in the world of cancer is with the government, who have cut 16 vital life enhancing cancer drugs from the Cancer Drugs Fund. These drugs are the difference for many people living with a terminal diagnosis of seeing their child’s 5th birthday and seeing their 10th, of making it on that trip they always wanted to take, of writing that book they always thought they’d write ‘one day’, when they were older, and had time… The drugs will still be available to existing patients, but will not be accessible to patients who need them equally as much from April. So a breast cancer patient with stage 4 liver mets could be sat in the waiting room next to someone else with stage 4 liver mets, and one of them will be able to access a drug which is helping to prolong her life so she will be able to see her 16 year old daughter make it to university at least, and the other will be denied that drug because his cancer didn’t metastasize until after the Government’s (literal) deadline.
What is the Cancer Drugs Fund and why is it being cut? When the Conservatives dribbled into power in 2010 they set up the CDF to provide vital cancer drugs that the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) had decided were too expensive for a general roll out on the NHS. It was meant to be a temporary measure while they made good on their election promise that treatments should no longer be denied on grounds of cost. The idea was to work with big pharma to reduce the cost of the drugs overall, and the CDF was to bridge the gap for the couple of years that would take. Four years on and the CDF has gone from costing £50million a year to costing a whopping £280million a year, but the government has unfortunately not made good on its promise to work with big pharma to reduce the cost of drugs overall. Instead they are taking the backwards step of making yet another financial cut for a group of people who won’t be around to fight them for long anyway.
If we began to list the various groups of disadvantaged, disabled, financially poor, vulnerable and now terminally ill people in this country the current government has clawed money and resources away from since they came into power, we’d be here til way after most of the people currently trying to access the life enhancing drugs through the CDF have ‘lost their battle’. Unfortunately, the groups of people who can afford to shore up our defences and fight – the ones who donate to the Tory party coffers for instance – are making large profits and eating well, while way too many others are going hungry, being forced to work when they are not physically capable, and now dying to support a system that is malignant to its core.
It’s obvious that the spiralling costs of the CDF needs to be addressed, but simply cutting the funding for 16 vital life enhancing drugs is not doing that; it’s like trying to treat cancer with lemon juice. The conservatives don’t want to address the wider issues of how the NHS is being run because they don’t want to draw attention to the privatisation of the health service that they are conducting like a night time stealth mission as well all sit on idly drinking tea, because so many of the ‘private’ companies involved have links to their party. Reform needs to happen because this debate ‘gets to the very heart of our health care system, and the value that we as a society place on the quality of life for all patients’.
If you are ever unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with cancer, this will matter to you, but by then it might be too late. This affects us all, not just the unlucky few with a stage 4 diagnosis who are desperately struggling to be heard and receive treatments that could extend their lives, allow them to continue living as normally as possible, to carry on working and contributing to the economy. There is way too much abuse of power by those holding the reins and way too much ignorance of those struggling to live going on in our society at the moment. Do something about it now because you don’t want to be starting this battle when you’re already spending all your energy on just trying to stay alive – and you could be next.