A mother who fought the NHS to provide her with a life-prolonging drug has died — two weeks after winning her appeal.
Nikki Phelps, 37, died from glandular cancer at Hammersmith Hospital. Her case prompted a wave of support after it emerged she had already spent her £6,000 savings on Sunitinib and was being forced to sell her home in Luddesdown, near Gravesend, Kent.
The house sale was to help fund the treatment as she had been told that she had not had the right type of cancer to qualify for it on the NHS.
Mrs Phelps, who has two-year-old twin sons with her husband Bill, criticised the fact that she was unable to receive the drug despite a government pledge to give sufferers of rare cancers easier access to life-extending drugs.
NHS West Kent made a U-turn last month following an appeals panel review of her case. It agreed to backdate its decision to February 1, repaying £9,150 the couple had spent.
But Mrs Phelps’s condition deteriorated and she suffered another stroke and never regained enough strength to help her face another bout of chemotherapy.
Mr Phelps paid tribute to his wife, saying her legacy would live on as family and friends plan to honour her memory.
“I was holding her hand, her mother Kay and sister Julie were also there at her bedside. She had a picture of the twins on her. She breathed in – and didn’t breathe out again.
“It was very peaceful and nothing like as traumatic as I thought it would be. She was a good person and she’s going to be deeply missed by a lot of people.”
James Thallon, NHS West Kent’s medical director, said: “Everyone at NHS West Kent would like to offer our deepest sympathy and condolences to the family of Mrs Phelps.”
Mrs Phelps, a former primary school teacher, was diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago before being given the all-clear in 2002.
However, after giving birth through IVF treatment in November 2007, the disease returned and she underwent surgery to remove an 11lb tumour in January last year.
Doctors warned her there is a 50% chance that one of her sons could one day contract the condition, which causes small, benign tumours to grow in glands around the body.
As well as being forced to put their £200,000 home on the market, the couple were also prepared to sell their cattery business to pay for the drug, which costs £36,000 a year.