Natalie Fairclough was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive type of leukaemia in March 2010. After months of treatment, sleepless nights, tears and fears, Natalie was told she had an “explosive relapse” and was given two choices by doctors. Either go home and spend her last moments with her family or receive further and very painful treatment which may ultimately have the same end result.
Natalie and her husband, Andy, refused to believe those were her only choices. The couple are parents to a baby girl, Elkie, and the thought of leaving her without a mum was not one they were prepared to accept.
“I told myself, if there is even a glimmer of light on the horizon there is hope. Without hope there can be no salvation there is only darkness; I frantically set out to find the light,” said Andy.
Andy contacted friends, family and experts around the world seeking options. They were pointed in the direction of a clinical trial in Germany which looked promising. Andy researched the trial and emailed various haematologists in London, Frankfurt, Vienna and New York before finally getting in touch with the principal investigator in charge the trial, Max Topp in Wurzburg Germany.
Natalie suffers from pre B cell form of relapsed /Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), a very aggressive form of leukaemia with a poor prognosis. The trial is a phase 2 trial of a drug called Blinatumomab, a monoclonal antibody which can destroy B-cells.
The results so far are very encouraging. Three relapsed patients who have been recorded to undergo this treatment achieved remission. In one case it allowed a second transplant and a durable remission. The consensus amongst the specialists is that this may be very good for Natalie.
There are some hurdles for Natalie to overcome, her white blood count is dangerously high for air travel. Chemotherapy would reduce the count however the trial excludes the use of chemotherapy for 14 days prior to beginning the treatment.
Natalie’s journey has seen her search for and find a suitable donor for a bone marrow transplant, months of chemotherapy, blood transfusions, lumber punctures, drugs and endless needles and total body irradiation, meaning Natalie will never be able to have another child.
Andy and Natalie are preparing to move to the small town in Germany for what they hope to be the final and successful leg of this horrible journey. They cling on to hope and stay strong in their love which they believe will hold them together.