A young woman who is using cannabis to treat her brain tumour is calling for the drug to be made available to patients on the NHS.
Kate Munford, 21, had four major surgeries and gruelling courses of chemo and radiotherapy – but was left devastated when her incurable cancerous tumour began to grow back.
Her family began looking at alternative therapies and Kate’s mum Sandra found Sativex, a mouth spray with chemical extracts taken from the cannabis plant.
Sativex is the only licensed cannabis-based medicine in Britain, designed to reduce muscle spasms in people with multiple sclerosis.
But Sandra read how other people with conditions similar to her daughter’s claimed the drug had helped shrink their tumours.
Encouraged by the stories of hope, the family now pay £375 every six weeks for a private prescription, as well as using legalised cannabis oil.Kate, from Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire, believes both have helped her.
She said: “My symptoms have got a lot better since I began using the treatments. My health has progressed so much and I feel better than ever.“Hearing the cancer was never going to stop was devastating but I’m booked for another scan and – best case scenario – I’m hoping the tumour will have shrunk.
“I take Sativex four times a day and put cannabis oil under my tongue as it gets straight into the bloodstream that way.“I’m no longer sick or tired and I know it’s the cannabis that’s making a difference.
“I’m fortunate we can afford it, but I really do feel that the drug should be available to all cancer patients on the NHS.”
Kate’s diagnosis was the latest heartbreak to hit the family after her dad Bryan, 41, suffered a massive heart attack and died in 2010.
But despite the tragedy they have endured, Kate, Sandra and sister Beth are determined to make the most of every day.
Kate said: “I do wish dad was here to help me through this.
“He collapsed in front of Beth and me. He was fit and healthy and then suddenly he was gone.“It’s been tough, but we are a very close family and my mum and sister are an incredible support.”
Kate was diagnosed with a grade three astrocytoma in March last year after having severe headaches and double vision.She had four operations in which surgeons were able to remove 80 per cent of the mass, along with four litres of fluid.
But she was then dealt a devastating blow when doctors discovered the mass had grown again a few months later.
Student Kate said: “My optician spotted something at the back of my eye and I was referred to hospital.“An MRI and CT scan found there was a tumour. Each surgery was risky and they couldn’t get it all out because of the position.”
But the treatment made her feel unwell and that’s when the family began looking into medical cannabis.
After speaking to her GP, Kate was given a private prescription for Sativex.She said: “I spent time researching it and discovered people whose tumours have shrunk because of the drug.
“It’s very expensive which makes it difficult for others.”Sandra added: “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help Kate. The medication is expensive, but we are hopeful it will shrink the tumour.
“We discussed it with Kate’s doctors and they have been very supportive. It seems a shame it isn’t readily available to others. It costs £375 every six weeks, but you do whatever you can to help your child.
“When you hear ‘cannabis’, it has such a bad stigma that people don’t think it could be medically acceptable.Kate also had to be fitted with a tube from the back of her head to her stomach, regulating fluid in her head.
She said: “One day I was fine and then the next I was fighting for my life. It was surreal but I just had to get on with it and hope for the best.”
Kate spent three weeks in hospital after her surgery before starting chemotherapy tablets and radiotherapy on her head to reduce the growth.