A former Portadown woman and renowned artist has added her voice to the campaign to have life-extending cancer drugs made available in Northern Ireland.
Nicola Russell (50), who attended Portadown Prep, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and after treatment, thought she had beaten it.
But the disease returned and she was told last summer that it had spread to her leg and lungs and was incurable via conventional treatment.
The Belfast-based artist specialises in portraits, equine and nature scenes, and her clients include the Queen, and US president Bill Clinton.
Nicola has been told that the best hope of extending her life is by taking a drug called Everolimus, but it is not available in Northern Ireland.
She said, “It’s shattering to be told that there is a treatment that will help you and prolong your life, but you can’t have it.”
Nicola and her long-term partner Kenny Boyd are even considering moving to England so she can be prescribed the drug, although it is the last thing they want to do.
“To be forced to consider living in a place you don’t want to be in, to sustain your life, and then to have the energy and the ability to finance it is just a nightmare,” she said.
“I’m back painting again. I think when you give up, you stop living. It’s vital that people are told and are made aware of the fact that there are other, life-extending treatments available and there is hope.”
Cancer Focus NI’s campaign, to make all drugs available to cancer patients here, has 8,000 signatures to date.