On Tuesday we reported how a pioneering cancer treatment was being denied to patients in the South West. Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy is a form of radiotherapy that targets tumours directly.
Wells MP Tessa Munt, who is calling for the treatment to be made available to patients in our region, told us that Plymouth Derriford Hospital, which was due to provide SBRT, had to cancel the plan as there wasn’t enough money to buy the Cyberknife robotic system which is used to provide the treatment.
Here, Ruth Peberdy a former nurse from Stawell, near Bridgwater in Somerset, explains why the Cyberknife is such a valuable weapon in the war to combat cancer...
I was most heartened to read the coverage given to MP Tessa Munt’s report with regard to the lack of up-to-date and more accurate radiotherapy services here in the South West.
In early 2005, following the death of my husband, Ron, I set up a charity in his name, The Ron Peberdy Cyberknife Trust, registered charity number 1113066, with the intention that money raised could be used as a base for an appeal to secure a Cyberknife system in the South West.
It has been a struggle and remains so. However, I remain true to my intentions and although it has taken me almost eight years to raise £55,000, I know that with the help of the people in this region, it would be possible to fund our own Cyberknife system. All three NHS systems in London have been financed by donation and appeal.
Much of the work I have done has been the creating awareness that Cyberknife exists, and making the NHS aware that the technology needs to be embraced in this country. When I set out on my Cyberknife journey, there were none here. Now we have five, three in the NHS and two privately owned. Needless to say, the two privately owned systems were the first to be set up.
As Tessa so rightly pointed out, there has been a huge amount of misinformation and negativity bandied about by politicians who should know better. It is not difficult to understand what makes Cyberknife so unique. It is because it is able to access areas of the body hitherto inaccessible, with sub millimetre accuracy, causing minimum damage to surrounding, healthy body tissue. In a nutshell, it is radiotherapy delivered in a more accurate and patient-friendly way. What is so difficult to understand? Why have the politicians and bureaucrats in the NHS found it so difficult to take on board?
Once these systems are up and running, treatment is more cost effective. Not only that, they generate money, with health trusts buying into them. Patients are able to walk away from treatment and resume normal daily living, with no pain and no long recovery periods. Who wants to undergo invasive surgery when there is such a non-invasive option such as this?
I was a nurse in the NHS for over 30 years, 20 of them spent working in the community, so when I first heard of Cyberknife I was overjoyed. Here was technology which would be able to help those people diagnosed with inoperable tumours, tumours deemed too dangerous to attempt to tackle by invasive surgery. I realised that something should be done about bringing it to the NHS, and with Ron’s diagnosis hitting us like a thunderbolt, plus my medical background, I felt that I should take up the baton and get the job done.
Just like Tessa, I have been given a hard time. The names I have been called have sometimes been hurtful and I have been treated with disdain by politicians and bureaucrats alike, but I knew that what I was doing was right. From day one, my anxieties have been for those people diagnosed with inoperable tumours. They are the important ones in all this, particularly those of younger age where life can be cruelly cut short.
We desperately need a Cyberknife Centre in the South West and we can do it if we work together. It was done in the seventies when the MRI scanner emerged, and we can do it now, so that people in the regions do not have to do long journeys and find accommodation in order to receive treatment with Cyberknife. There are now about 250 Cyberknife systems functioning around the world, some in the most unlikely places. Search the internet and it is possible to read the stories of people who have had their lives changed and been given a hopeful future.
If anyone would like to donate, you can do so on my charity’s website, or send donations to my home, The Old School, Stawell, Bridgwater, TA7 9AE. On November 3, I and others will be collecting at Bridgwater Carnival, so watch out for our flashing Cyberknife badges!
Ron was an extremely charitable man and before he died, I told him I would do my best to bring Cyberknife to the South West. He would be so delighted if we could achieve that goal.