It’s the diagnosis that no one wants to hear: cancer. And, not only cancer, but stage four cancer, which means the disease has metastasized or spread to other parts of the body. In other words, the prognosis is bleak.
In such a situation, doctors might say there’s no more to be done – and the patient, too, may begin to accept their fate. But what if there was someone else at hand who was unwilling to take “terminal” as an answer? And for one woman from Chester, United Kingdom, that person was her ex-husband’s new wife.
Nicola Hitchen had already had a few bumps in the road. The elementary school administrator had gotten divorced from her husband, Andy, with whom she shared two sons. However to Joseph, 14, and Jacob, 12, Hitchen would always be “an amazing mum,” according to her husband’s new wife, Clare.
But divorce would not be Hitchen’s only obstacle to overcome. An unrelenting, intense pain led her seek medical attention, but she was told it was all part of the healing process from a former surgery. Yet her condition worsened to the point where she was admitted into an intensive care unit.
Once she was there, doctors rushed to treat her for sepsis, a complication in which one’s body damages itself when it attempts to treat its own infection. As they did, they realized an even bigger problem: Hitchen had cancer.
At first, doctors diagnosed the disease at stage two, which means it may have taken hold but had yet to spread to other organs or tissue. In just seven short weeks, though, that would all change when her cancer got even worse.
The medical team not only told Hitchen that her cancer had rapidly progressed to stage four – meaning it had spread to other parts of the body – but that the disease had progressed too far. They could no longer treat the mom-of-two.
Hitchen told The Sun how she felt upon hearing her diagnosis. “I was very scared when they told me,” she said. “It was such a shock… By the time the infection had gone I was told it was too late to treat the cancer.”
And yet, with the odds stacked against her, Hitchen said she wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. “Getting a diagnosis like that you can respond in one of two ways. Either you accept this is what’s happening and sort your affairs out – or you start looking at other options,” she revealed.
For the brave mom, accepting her fate “wasn’t an option.” Instead, she sought out alternative treatment methods and medications. Then she found an interesting option in Istanbul, Turkey: a cutting-edge oncology center called ChemoThermia.
The only problem with the program was its price tag: it would cost more than $105,000 for five ten-day bouts of therapy. But Hitchen decided to take the plunge, making the financial sacrifice in a last-ditch effort to save her life.
On July 23, 2017, she checked into ChemoThermia to begin the first round. Doctors attacked the tumors with a combination of chemotherapy and targeted heat. To help the treatment, Hitchen ate a special plan of foods and spent time in an oxygen chamber to promote healing.
Before arriving, Hitchen’s pain level had been incredibly high. But after ten days in Istanbul, she felt like a completely different person. “I went from being on six or seven different painkillers a day to not needing any. It was amazing,” she said.
She finished her fifth round of treatment by the beginning of November, with incredible results to share. The primary abdominal tumor had almost entirely disappeared. Further tumors in her liver and spine were barely there. And the tumor in her lungs had gone.
But even with such a turnaround, she was not entirely out of the woods. Unfortunately, with money so tight, she needed help to pay for the last few rounds of treatment, but that would come with great expense: more than $65,000, which Hitchen could not afford on her own.
And that’s when the unlikeliest of candidates stepped up to help: her ex-husband’s new spouse, Clare. For Clare, it was obvious that she had to help Nicola. “This is not an option – the boys need their mum and she deserves the chance to watch them grow into men and have their own families,” she said.
So, Clare created an online campaign to help her stepsons’ mom raise the money she needed. Hitchen couldn’t believe the outpouring of support. “I’m completely overwhelmed – everyone especially Clare has been amazing,” she said. It’s not just Clare who has supported Hitchen’s treatment, though.
Incredibly, the site Clare created has smashed its target and raised nearly $67,000 to date, with donations pouring in from friends, family members and strangers alike. “It warms my heart that we have all united in this and your support has given Nicola positivity and hope, which is healing the mind,” Clare wrote on the JustGiving page.
“You will never understand just how much your donation, whether big or small, and messages of love and encouragement have helped,” she added. Hitchen could only agree with Clare’s statement. She told The Sun: “The support I’ve been given has been phenomenal, not just from family but from complete strangers.”
The massive donation has allowed Nicola to return to Turkey for her next round of treatment, according to an update Clare posted in mid-November. “That’s all down to the generosity of friends, relatives and strangers with big hearts all over the world,” she wrote. And, as the mom’s health continues to improve, so do her family ties. She told The Sun: “It’s brought us all even closer together.”