DEFIANT breast cancer patient Lesley Graham, who forced the Scottish Government into a U-turn in accessing wonder drug Kadcyla on the NHS, has died this week.
She passed away on Tuesday morning at the ACCORD Hospice in Paisley with her family by her side.
But feisty Lesley has left a fabulous legacy, which will change the future of thousands of women whose last ditch attempt to extend their lives rests with Kadcyla.
If they meet the correct criteria, Kadcyla can now be made available, giving them extra time with their loved ones.
Last night, Lesley’s husband Colin, 48, paid tribute to her courage, saying: “Our family is immensely proud of what she has done and the lasting effect she left behind.
“She will never be forgotten. My wonderful wife was one of a kind and she’s deeply loved and missed.”
Lesley launched a successful campaign to access the drug in May last year, after being given just four to six months to live.
Instead, she lived for just over a year, enjoying her extended time to celebrate family birthdays, Christmas, daughter Rebekah’s transition to high school, as well as her own 40th birthday celebrations in April at the family home in Barrhead, Glasgow.
Lesley became the face of Breast Cancer Now charity and despite her own failing health, battled for a better deal for women in Scotland facing breast cancer.
In May 2016, Lesley’s only chance of extending her life was the drug Kadcyla, which at around £15,000 a session, was not within Scotland’s NHS budget.
So mum-of-two Lesley wrote a searingly honest letter to Health Minister Shona Robison, challenging her to meet face-to-face to tell her why she should give up and die, when there’s a drug out there which could give her more time with her husband and daughters Charlotte, 15, and Rebekah, 13.
Her letter, published exclusively in the Sunday Post in May 2016, captured the nation.
The former childminder was first diagnosed in February 2015 and opted to have her right breast removed.
In February 2016 though, the cancer was back and had spread to her liver, ribs and brain.
Her oncologist recognised that Lesley met the criteria for taking Kadcyla and applied for approval to access the drug. It was denied on grounds of cost.
At the time, Lesley said: “What amazes me is how our Government can shell out £17.8 million to chemists for methadone treatment for drug addicts. That was their lifestyle choice. They knew the risks.”
“My point is that deserves a chance, be it self-inflicted or not.”
Lesley added: “I’d like to know that I fought to the end and secured something that will buy the most precious gift of all – time with your family and loved ones.”
Husband Colin said Lesley had fought for others as her own life slipped away.
“Her campaign started for her own self-preservation, but quickly turned to a fight for all women afflicted by this disease.
“At a time when she should have been focusing on her own treatment and recovery, she was travelling to Edinburgh to meet with ministers at the Scottish Parliament to try to overturn the very fragile and unjust system of accessing life-changing drugs, so that no other woman would have to go through what she did.”
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