People: Dying mother gets her Christmas wish

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The Independent Online
The plight of Helen Bourton, the 26-year-old mother from Bristol whose last wish is to spend Christmas with her 18-month-old daughter, has triggered a spontaneous outpouring of generosity since it was disclosed earlier this week.

Over pounds 10,000 has been raised by the "Save Helen Fund", set up by well- wishers, after her health authority, Avon, said it would not pay for a drug that may extend her life.

Ms Bourton (pictured above with her daughter, Ellie-May) was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, and has been told she has only months to live after the disease spread to her lungs, liver and kidneys. The drug which might extend her life is Taxol, which costs pounds 12,200 for a course, but Avon Health Authority has decided it cannot afford it even though it is available in neighbouring Somerset.

Linda Webster, stepmother of Ms Bourton's partner and organiser of the fund, said: "We have had all sorts of cheques, some for 50 pence and two for pounds 5,000. It moves you to tears that people are so kind but they shouldn't have to be. I remember the day when if you needed NHS treatment you got it whether you lived in Cornwall or Scotland. Now that no longer seems to the case." She said Ms Bourton started on Taxol on Tuesday and her parents, who had planned to sell their house to pay for it, were relieved. "No one is going to a let a person die for the sake of pounds 10,000. You would rob a bank sooner than do that."

Ms Bourton's cancer was initially missed by doctors whom she consulted when seven months pregnant; they said the lump in her breast was a blocked milk duct. It was diagnosed five weeks after birth but chemotherapy and radiotherapy failed to check its spread. Nancy Roberts, chair of the UK Breast Cancer Coalition, said the health authority's refusal to pay for the drug after Ms Bourton had been initially misdiagnosed was a double insult. "It is a disgrace that women are being denied treatments that have been shown to improve the quality of life."

Avon health authority said the NHS could not buy everything and it had to choose what had been proved to be most effective.