A former carer diagnosed with advanced cancer while on holiday in Thailand is fighting to survive long enough to fly home and see his sons.
Andy Tracey, 59, was in Chiang Mai last March, where he still is receiving treatment, when doctors discovered he had stage four pancreatic cancer with a life expectancy of three to five months.
Grace O’Neill, a social worker and friend from Wimbledon, started a GoFundMe page to help pay for a potentially life-extending drug currently unavailable on the NHS to him.
She said: “It was so out of the blue that it just shocked everyone.
“But he’s very positive, very motivated and determined and is one of those single-minded people.
“Plus, he’s more than doubled his life expectancy.”
Andy, a full-time carer for his parents until they passed away in 2019, researched everything he could to improve the length of his survival.
He found Lynparza, a treatment that is provided on the NHS for ovarian cancer, but not for pancreatic.
This targeted therapy drug could extend life more than chemotherapy alone for people with both pancreatic cancer and a BRCA gene mutation, which he also has.
One year’s supply costs around £88,000.
Andy was offered palliative care for his cancer by oncologists back in the UK, which Grace said scared him, so instead he remained in Thailand having chemotherapy paid for by his holiday insurance.
More than £6,000 has been raised at the time of writing and Andy explained: “It helps so much and not just for the money raised, which is needed.
“But more importantly the love and care shown for me lifts me mentally in the darkest moments and enables me to fight harder as I feel people are behind me and won’t let me down.”
Grace admitted: “If I’m honest, the problem with these cancer funding pages is that until cancer hits you or someone close to you, you become numb to these awful stories.
“We’re fundraising in a slightly English, reticent way as Andy and I are so used to helping and supporting others that actually asking for help and support isn’t something that comes easily to us.”
There is no cure for Andy’s particular cancer, which has spread to other parts of his organs, and the COVID-19 pandemic is making travelling difficult at the moment.
But Andy, who grew up around south west London, hopes to survive long enough to go home to the UK and spend time with his two sons, 21 and 23, who are both at university.
He said: “I miss my sons more than breath itself, my friends too.
“I speak to them two or three times a week and I wanted to come home in March, but I had no choice but to stay here.”
Nearly half of all pancreatic cancer patients are likely to be diagnosed only once the disease has spread to other parts of the body, according to research in 2019 by UK charity Pancreatic Cancer Facts.
The charity also found that pancreatic cancer receives under 3% of cancer research funding.
Donations to the fundraiser can be made here.