A terminally ill cancer patient has been given the all-clear after becoming the first woman in Wales to be given a pioneering treatment.
Helen Wynne Hughes, 32, was given CAR-T treatment that uses the body’s own cells to fight cancer.
The mother-of-three, from Denbighshire, had the therapy earlier this year after other treatments failed.
“When the doctor said it was clear… we were in tears. Finally, there was no cancer at all,” she said.
Whatever Covid restrictions may be in place this Christmas, it is set to be special for the Hughes family.
It is a world away from a year ago when Helen was making memory boxes for her three young children – Aled, four, Tomos, two, and 19-month-old Beca.
“I had to tell them ‘perhaps it is mummy’s last Christmas’,” she recalled.
“They are so small, it was very hard. Making memory boxes, looking back thinking I might not get to do things with them again.”
It was Christmas Eve 2018 when she was told scans had revealed a mass on her chest “the size of a grapefruit”.
She had felt unwell during her third pregnancy, only to be diagnosed with lymphoma.
“I was allowed to go home on Christmas Day to see the children open their presents and have lunch,” she recalled.
“But I only managed two hours as I was so ill.”
Helen, from Ruthin, started chemotherapy almost immediately and 10 weeks later, she gave birth to her “bundle of joy” Beca.
However last autumn she was given the devastating news that the cancer was unresponsive and had spread to her bones, liver, lungs.
“I was told to prepare my children for the worst,” she said.
Early this year, Helen was offered a glimmer of hope when she was told she qualified for the new Chimeric Antigen Receptors Cell Therapy (CAR-T) treatment that had just been approved by the NHS.
“CAR-T was the last hope for me. I’d do anything,” she said.
The family then faced an agonising six-month wait to learn whether the treatment had worked.
Last week she was finally given the news she had craved, that the cancer “had all gone”.
“I was prepared for the worst but luckily CAR-T has saved my life,” she said.
“I feel quite proud being the first female from Wales to have the treatment and hopefully many more after me will be allowed to have the treatment.”
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