A dad may not live to see his twins grow up after being denied the wonder drug that could save his life – even though doctors said he SHOULD have it.
Nick Dipper and wife Lisa fulfilled their dream of becoming parents when their three-year-old boys arrived following two stillborn daughters.
But their happy family life was cruelly snatched away when Nick, 51, developed a cancer behind the nose.
He was refused immunotherapy on the NHS because the tumour is in the wrong place by barely an inch.
The drug he needs, Nivolumab, is licensed only for use on head tumours up to the mouth.
That is because Nick’s cancer, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, is so rare that no clinical trials have been carried out.
Yet Nick, 51, could be treated by the same NHS doctor if he goes private – at a cost of more than £200,000.
Last night devastated wife Lisa said: “Whether Nick sees his children grow up all comes down to money. It’s sickening.
“We don’t know if we will ever witness any of those special moments other parents look forward to. The boys starting school, teaching them how to ride their bikes, celebrating special birthdays, seeing them get ready for the prom, watching them get married.
“I can’t stand the thought of Nick not being around as the boys grow up. He’s been given nine months to live, just enough time to see the boys reach their fourth birthday.
“The worst thing is they will be too young to remember him if he dies now.”
The family have turned to strangers to get Nick the immunotherapy, pleading for help through a GoFundMe page.
Life was very different three years ago when project manager Nick and Lisa, 37, celebrated the birth of miracle twins Ely and Ezra in Henley, Oxfordshire.
Delivered at 31 weeks in October 2015, premature Ezra weighed 2lb 15oz, Ely 3lb.
Their birth eased the pain for the couple whose two previous pregnancies had ended in stillbirth.
Their first daughter Eden died in the womb at seven months in 2013. A year later Hope died at six months.
“The loss we felt was absolutely terrible,” says Lisa, a senior banking specialist. “Anyone who has had a baby born asleep will know how hard it is.
“Doctors were never able to offer an explanation as to why our baby girls died but the boys had to be delivered early because there was a problem with feeding through the placenta, so we can only speculate something similar happened.”
The twins spent seven weeks in special baby care before going home – and family life started in earnest for the Dippers.
When Nick complained of tiredness he put it down to being a new dad but within a year he had crippling headaches .
In October 2017 he went to see his doctor who diagnosed sinusitis but alarm bells starting ringing for Lisa when five lots of antibiotics failed to work and Nick lost a stone and a half.
Nick was finally referred to an ear nose and throat specialist at Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.
Last June he was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma – a tumour in the part of the throat that connects the back of the nose to the mouth.
The cancer was already stage three and had spread to the lymph nodes in his neck and the base of his skull. He immediately began a massive course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
“It was horrendous to see Nick go through so much,” says Lisa.
“The treatment literally burned him inside and out yet he battled through every last bit and just wanted to get home to me and the boys.”
Weeks later Nick developed sepsis and spent six weeks in intensive care. In January a scan showed his cancer had gone. The family thought they were in the clear and began to look forward to normal life with their toddlers.
Three weeks later their world came crashing down again when Nick, suffering from sciatica, had another scan which showed the cancer had spread to his thigh bone, hip, shoulder, lungs and liver.
Lisa said: “We could barely believe it.
“We’d been through so much and thought we’d reached the end, and in a flash we were right back where we’d been. I just look at the twins sometimes and feel such searing pain that they might lose Nick.”
The couple were offered palliative chemotherapy but, determined not to give up, Lisa researched immunotherapy and discovered the drug Nivolumab could be used for head and neck cancer.
Their oncologist said it might be possible to get the drug.
But two weeks later, they were told it was only licensed up to the mouth.
The only way they can have the treatment is to fund it privately.
Yet it would be administered out by the same NHS doctor already treating Nick.
Immunotherapy for head and neck cancers is around 15 per cent successful.
But the couple last month paid £6,000 for tests at a German university which revealed that Nick has a 90 per cent chance of beating cancer with Nivolumab, also called Opdivo.
Royal Berkshire Hospital has now applied for special funding for Nick.
He still has a job but his employers are no longer able to fund sick pay so the family are looking for other finance options.
Lisa said: “I feel so angry that it all comes down to finances. Emotionally I’m falling to bits and hanging on by a thread.
“At the start of last year I had what every girl wants. We had the perfect life. Nick had a good job, we had two lovely boys and he was everything a dad should be.
“Then cancer came along to tear our life apart. I want our boys to have their dad around. I want them to grow up to be perfect gentlemen, just like their dad.
“We don’t want to fill memory boxes or write future birthday cards. I want people reading our story to feel empathy but – and I know this might sound cold – what we need most is money to save Nick.
“The drug he needs is out there so we need to be able to access it on the NHS.
“I can’t accept the inevitable will happen while Nick still has a chance to see his boys grown up.”
NHS England said: “Immunotherapy is available to treat a range of cancers on the NHS. Where it is not routinely commissioned for a specific cancer, an individual funding request can be submitted.”
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