Dad feared he wouldn’t see Christmas after being denied expensive NHS treatment

By | December 15, 2019

Last Christmas he was at death’s door and eating his dinner through a tube.

Nick Dipper’s cancer medication meant he could barely keep his eyes open to watch his three-year-old twin sons play with their toys.

Their dad, 51, feared he would never see another Christmas after being denied expensive NHS ­treatment because his tumour was in the wrong place by an INCH.

But his wife Lisa, 38, refused to give up and she rallied friends and family to raise £140,000 for private therapy in Germany.

Now doctors say he is well enough to spend this Christmas with his ­family after declaring him cancer free.

Nick said: “If it wasn’t for Lisa I wouldn’t be here today. I married an absolute force of nature. She’s saved my life.”

Nick battled sepsis as well as cancer

Nick admitted he could not ­remember much about last year’s festivities.

“I recall bits of the boys ­unwrapping a few presents but I was on really heavy medication and most of it passed me by.

“We were fortunate that the boys were so young they won’t remember.

“This year has been so ­different. I’ve loved doing the little things like watching the kids get their letters from Santa and shopping for presents.

“It’s going to be really special and I can’t wait to see their faces on Christmas morning.”

He and his wife have now triumphed over ­massive odds twice after fulfilling their dream of having miracle twins Ely and Ezra four years ago.

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Proud dad Nick with three-year-old twins Ezra and Ely

Their lives seemed complete when the boys arrived following the birth of two stillborn daughters.

In October 2017 Nick was diagnosed with ­sinusitis after complaining of crippling ­ headaches .

The following June he was referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist.

Tests revealed an extremely rare tumour growing in the part of the throat that connects the back of the nose to the mouth.

The a nasopharyngeal carcinoma was stage three and had spread to the lymph nodes in his neck and the base of his skull.

Nick was immediately given ­massive doses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading.

Nick says his wife Lisa saved his life

In early December last year he developed sepsis and spent six weeks in intensive care with multiple organ failure.

As he battled for his life, Lisa feared Nick would die.

Medics allowed him to leave hospital on Christmas Eve but he had to return on Boxing Day.

Eventually he recovered from sepsis and the couple believed his gruelling chemo – which wife Lisa says “burned him from the inside out” – had beaten the cancer.

Initial scans showed he was clear of the disease but three weeks later he was told it was back.

It had spread to his liver, lung and bones and Nick was offered palliative care.

Lisa refused to give up and let her husband die.

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She researched immunotherapy and discovered a drug called Nivolumab could be used to treat head and neck cancer.

Our previous story on Nick

But the NHS refused to fund it because it was ­licensed only for use up to the mouth – meaning Nick’s cancer was in the wrong place by an inch.

Undeterred the couple, from Henley, Oxfordshire, paid £6,000 for tests at a German university which showed Nick had a 90 per cent chance of overcoming cancer with the medicine.

So Lisa launched a Facebook ­campaign, recruited an army of ­fundraisers and appealed for cash through the Sunday People.

Lisa said: “There was no way I was going to let Nick die or allow the boys to grow up without a dad.

“You do whatever you can out of desperation and it was clear nobody else was going to help us. I realised we were on our own.

“The NHS sent Nick home to die. We felt like he was just another ­number, another patient rather than a man with young children.” Lisa says they received an anonymous donation of £10,000 and two of £1,000 but most of the cash “otherwise came in £5 or £10 at a time”.

Nick with twins Ely and Ezra

Former senior banking specialist Lisa organised summer fetes, car boots, dinners, quizzes and raffles.

Friends arranged sponsored events including one who drove an old banger from Huddersfield to Benidorm.

Lisa said: “I set a target of £5,000 a week and would panic if I didn’t hit it.

“Looking back I can’t believe we raised so much money but the reward is having Nick here with us today.”

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Nick, a project manager, ­began immunotherapy at the Hallwang Clinic in Dornstetten, Germany, at Easter. Later scans revealed his liver was clear of tumours and a growth in his lung had shrunk.

By September all the tumours had vanished. He has gone from a mere seven stone at his sickest to a much more healthy ten and a half.

The couple were given an even bigger boost when US pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb agreed to give Nick a second immunotherapy drug called Emapalumab on ­compassionate grounds.

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He has this every four weeks at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.

Nick continues to visit the Hallwang every six months for Nivolumab.

Lisa said: “We’ve still got a lot of uncertainty because you can never know what the future brings but it all looks positive.

“This Christmas is going to be very special. We were living the worst of it all this time last year and Nick was dicing with death. He couldn’t even eat dinner because he was tube fed.

“He was emaciated and sleeping on and off all day. We can’t wait to have a nice family day at home with the boys.

“This will be the first Christmas they will remember. Ely has asked for some chocolate and a real turtle while Ezra wants a strawberry and carrot!

“They are both still at the stage where they don’t ask for much.

“Santa will be bringing them bikes. While the last two and a half years have been terrible it’s also restored my faith in human nature because we’ve had such amazing support.”


Mirror – Health