And, in a cruel twist, she is being refused access to a drug that her doctor and family believe is now her best chance for survival.
Julie Woodington first started suffering from problems with her sight in the lead-up to Christmas in 2020. However, she initially dismissed the symptom, assuming it was just a migraine.
But the condition got gradually worse, so Julie went to see her optician after the festive period. Her son, Ben Woodington, 31, said she asked if it was “anything scary like cancer”. However, she was reassured that this wasn’t the case – and was told that it was possibly a detached iris.
But, weeks later, Julie received a call with devastating news that would change her life – and the lives of her family members.
The mother-of-two was told that her vision problems might be being caused by a tumour behind her eye. However, this was a secondary tumour – and Ben says Doctors spent months trying to discover where his mum’s primary tumour was located.
Doctors could not start treatment until they found the primary tumour. And so Julie and her family could do nothing as her cancer spread.
Ben said: “What followed was months and months of tests which was incredibly stressful for her and the family… they were trying to find out where the primary tumour, which was in her lung, the secondary one was behind her eye.”
By the time the tumour had been located, Julie’s cancer was diagnosed as late stage 4. Ben said his mum had “every treatment under the sun”, from chemo to immunotherapy and radiotherapy. She also put herself forward for two clinical trials.
Early on in her treatment, doctors identified a mutation, called HER2, in Julie’s cancer. Her oncologist recommended one specific drug, Enhertu, that could help with such a mutation.
However, lung cancer patients in the UK cannot access Enhertu through the NHS – even though it can accessed by breast cancer patients and is available to lung cancer patients in the United States.
“She’s been told by her oncologist this is a really effective drug, but unfortunately we can’t give it to you,” Ben told The Mirror.
“One of the most painful experiences for her is being told that, and whilst breast cancer patients are receiving it in the same hospital. It’s incredibly frustrating, everyone in our family feels powerless.
“I work within cancer research and it’s especially strange for me being aware of the research going on and the trials and being completely powerless to do anything.”
The family are fundraising to buy the drug for Julie themselves. “This is the last option we have,” said Ben. “There’s one other chemotherapy drug that they may use, but it’s an old school, gnarly drug which causes the worst side effects.”
Click here to visit the fundraiser and donate.