‘It’s changed my life completely’ – Portsmouth mum speaks out as cancer drug she tested in clinical trial is released on NHS

Vanessa Hillary. Picture: Malcolm Wells
Vanessa Hillary. Picture: Malcolm Wells
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BEAMING in her garden and looking forward to the future, Vanessa Hillary is a changed woman.

The Portsmouth mum-of-four’s life has been turned around from when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and told a clinical trial may only extend her life by five years.

But now in remission she has told of her plans for the future – and of her delight that the drug that helped her is from today available on the NHS to women suffering with the same disease.

Vanessa has seen her cancerous tumours shrink to half their size after being one of the first people to trial Niraparib in the UK.

Vanessa, who said she’s not felt this good in years, said: ‘I’m feeling like how I did before the cancer.

‘And now seven months on ... I mean, I’ve been away on holiday – I haven’t had a holiday in five years. These tablets just help me live a perfectly normal life.

‘I’m able to work, I’m able to go out, I’m able to mix and I’m even able to drink which you can’t do on chemotherapy.’

Vanessa, 58, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013 and was given a life expectancy of five years.

Several rounds of chemotherapy left her with a reduced quality of life and she was unable to work or spend time with her family.

It was when doctors told her about a new targeted treatment that could be used for her type of cancer that she noticed a change. She said: ‘Chemotherapy is debilitating and there’s certain restrictions with chemotherapy.

‘There’s certain things you can’t eat. You can’t mix in public because of your immune system. You can’t mix with children so you know there’s stipulations with chemotherapy.’

Vanessa has been off of chemotherapy longer than she’s ever been and is in remission. She said: ‘I get up in the morning, take two tablets and that’s it. It’s changed my life completely.’

Ovarian cancer rates in the UK are among the highest in Europe.

Patients who took part in trials saw their cancer kept at bay for up to four times as long as would normally be expected with chemotherapy.

Vanesssa said: ‘I know there’s every possibility that the cancer is going to regrow because there’s no guarantee, but at the moment it’s certainly doing what it’s supposed to do.’

– TAMARA HOUGH