Battling wife pins hope on US treatment

A BRAVE woman battling cancer has spoken of the ray of hope offered to her terminally ill husband from pioneering treatment available in America.

A BRAVE woman battling cancer has spoken of the ray of hope offered to her terminally ill husband from pioneering treatment available in America.

Ann Bousfield was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2002, but the news came as a double-blow, because husband, Ron, 57, was already suffering from motor neurone disease.

Despite her own illness, the 56-year-old has had to remain strong as she watched Mt Bousfield's condition deteriorate, first his speech worsened and then his limbs.

The muscle-wasting disease only affects about 5,000 people in the UK and has a life expectancy of 14 months after diagnosis.

After seeing a short news feature on television about a Cambridge woman with the disease who had received stem cell treatment, the Wivenhoe couple, were given renewed optimism.

Stem cells are undeveloped cells which can develop into any type of cell, and are generally found in embryos and foetuses. They are also found in adults.

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While most uses of stem cells are highly experimental, they are already used in some cancer treatments. Scientists hope they will one day be used to replace cells which have died or stopped working because of disease.

The pair will fly out to the Institute of Cellular Medicine in Atlanta on March 18 for the treatment, which has only been used on 30 people worldwide.

The procedure will cost more than £16,000 and involves replacing the stem cells or revitalises the damaged ones after a blood transfusion.

It will not have an instant impact, but will hopefully slow Ron's decline.

Mrs Bousfield said: "The main purpose is to halt the deterioration and if he does get any better - that is a bonus. It has been horrendous for him and the drugs he was given just simply did not work and there were a lot of side effects."

Despite initial worries, Ron, is looking forward to his treatment and Ann believes the promise of the treatment has made a great difference to their outlook.

"It is hope, that is what Atlanta offers to us. Ron is getting weaker and weaker. I believe the treatment will work – I had this feeling that something, somewhere was going to help," she added.

The former bricklayer can still talk but it is getting harder to understand him and he now has to write down a lot of things on a pad.

Mrs Bousfield has been receiving chemotherapy at Essex County Hospital, Colchester and will soon start a course of radiotherapy to beat the cancer.

She will have a check up when the couple return from America, to find out if the treatment has been successful.

Despite her illness, her attention remains focused on her husband's battle.

"What he has got is far more serious than I have got," she said.

The couple from Ernest Road, have contacted staff at the Atlanta hospital, by e mail to ask questions and calm fears.

Mrs Bousfield said sons, Steven and John, initially took it all in their stride.

"Of course it has been difficult for them because it is their dad," she said.

Mrs Bousfield worked as commercial office administrator at the Manheim Auctions in Essex, and has been off work since October, but has been buoyed by returning to see colleagues at work.

The company's employees have come up with a powerful way of helping raise money towards the costs of Ron's treatment.

Four of the staff from the company in Colchester Road, Frating, are dressing up as Austin Powers and leaving for France on Sunday in a bid to add to the £4,000 already raised by the company.

They will visit every auction centre owned by the company in Europe in 72 hours, producing evidence from every place stopped at.

Alan Crouch, general manager, said the idea of supporting Mrs Bousfield

had captured the imagination of all the staff.

"Local and nationwide companies and all out buyers have been supporting the campaign. Ann has been quite remarkable and everybody here appreciates her drive and determination," he said.

Mrs Bousfield added, "As much as we appreciate the money, it has been so nice to see what people here have done for us. Everybody wants to chat to me and ask how I am – I usually end up staying for about three hours.

"It was so lovely to be told about what they had planned and I am still trying to find the words to thank everybody for what they have done."

Mr Bousfield hopes to be at the departure of the mini when it leaves.

Anyone who wants to donate money to the fund should contact Priscaila Darvill or Wendy Neville at Manheim Auctions on 01206 250230.

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