Angus gran pins final hopes on new cancer treatment

© DC ThomsonNorma McAra who is running in this week's Relay For Life.
Norma McAra who is running in this week's Relay For Life.

An Angus grandmother has pinned her final hopes on a new treatment after a five-year cancer ordeal.

Norma McAra, 66, a former nurse from Arbroath, was given the choice to stop all treatment or try a new type of therapy following a traumatic year in which she lost her hair and toenails.

She is now undergoing immunotherapy treatment which tricks the body’s own defences into fighting the enemy cancer within.

“My journey began in 2013 when I was diagnosed with stage four non-small cell lung cancer,” he said.

“I was treated aggressively with both chemotherapy and radiotherapy with a hope to be cured.

“At the end of treatment, things were looking promising.

“I initially got X-rays every three months, then every six months and eventually I had them annually.

“However, before my first annual X-ray in 2016, I contracted a virus which had been doing the rounds and I had a feeling that something was not quite right.

“I had a scan and a bronchoscopy which showed that the cancer had returned.”

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Norma started chemotherapy for four months initially but the scan showed there had been no change.

She was then offered maintenance chemotherapy for four months at the end of which a scan revealed the tumour had grown.

She said: “Not to be deterred I agreed to be treated with an alternative chemotherapy.

“Unfortunately, the latest scan showed that the tumour was continuing to grow and the chemotherapy was having no effect apart from making me ill.

“Finally, after a year in which I lost my hair twice as well as my toenails, the only choices left to me were to stop all treatment or to try a new type of therapy which had only been licensed here for no more than a year and had only began to be used in the last nine months.

“The treatment is called immunotherapy and has been used in America for some time.

“As the name suggests, it works on the immune system.

“It triggers the immune system to fight the cancer cells and is not so aggressive on the body as conventional chemotherapy. It was a no contest – I had to try.”

The results from the first scan were found to be encouraging.

Norma said she will continue to fight “this horrible disease” and will be taking part in this week’s Relay for Life at Arbroath Cricket Club.

She said she wants to help raise as much as possible to help researchers find a cure.