Stella and the starfish fund

Stella and the starfish fund

From Daniela Harker

We're raising money for bowel cancer drugs that the NHS won't cover. In memory of our friend Stella.

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Hi, we are Daniela and Lizzie and this is the story of Stella and the starfish fund. 

We met after being diagnosed with bowel cancer. Both of us are in our early 30s with young families and we found each other through a Facebook group set up for young people living with bowel cancer.

Currently the NHS has some restrictive rules on which bowel cancer drugs it will fund. Drugs like Cetuximab and Avastin are used routinely in the USA and widely accepted by oncologists in the UK to be incredibly effective for some patients at halting the progression of colorectal tumours and improving chemotherapy outcomes. Yet it's still difficult for NHS patients to access these drugs - either at all, or for as long as they need them - and that's largely due to cost. 

Can you imagine finding out you have cancer, being given a drug that helped you and then not being allowed to continue with it unless you fund it yourself? This is the position our friend Stella* finds herself in, and we want to help. 

So Stella has inspired us to set up this fund, first and foremost to help her pay for Cetuximab - the drug she needs. But we believe in dreaming big and our hope is that we'll also be able to help others in her position, the sky's the limit. 

Finally, in case you're wondering why "starfish fund"... When we thought about raising money to help Stella and others, it seemed like a huge mountain to climb to make a difference. But we felt really strongly that even helping one person would make it worthwhile. Then we heard the story about the boy and the starfish and it really resonated with us. The story goes that an old man sees a boy walking along the shore throwing beached starfish into the ocean one by one. The man asks the boy why he's wasting his time when there are thousands of beached starfish and he's only able to help one at a time, he tells the boy he'll never make a difference. The boy replies "well I just made a difference for that one" and carries on along the beach, throwing in the starfish one by one. 

Thank you for reading our story. We appreciate any donations, however big or small. All the money we receive will go to Stella to fund her Cetuximab until she no longer needs our help, and we promise to keep you updated on how many cycles our fund helps her with. If Stella no longer needs our help, we'll look for someone else who does and we'll update this page with their story. 

*We've changed Stella's name to protect her privacy as she's not ready to share her story with the world just yet. 


Update: January 2020

We wanted to share two updates, a sad one and a happy one. 

The sad news is that our beautiful Stella, who inspired us to start this fund, sadly passed away at the end of 2019. After we started fundraising, Stella's treatment plans changed and Cetuximab was no longer recommended for her so ultimately she didn't benefit from this fund but she was absolutely blown away by the generosity of everyone who has donated. She was an amazing person and we will continue raising funds to help others like her, in her memory. 

In happier news, we have now used the first £4000 raised to help someone who needed Avastin which, similarly to Cetuximab, is not funded on the NHS. Avastin is routinely prescribed to eligible bowel cancer patients in the US but in the UK it's only available privately. 

We met Paul Hodges through a support group for bowel cancer patients in the UK. Here's a little about him in his daughter Molly's words: "He's 61 and was diagnosed with bowel cancer in March 2019. He's quite an incredible man but I am biased! He's got two daughters, worked all his life but unfortunately had to go off sick with he got diagnosed and as he was self employed, this money is so much needed to allow him to have the drugs he needs."

Thank you everyone for getting the Starfish fund to over £4000 in 2019. We have big plans for 2020 and hope to continue to be able to help Paul and others this year. We'll update again soon. 

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