Fundraiser set up to send Haddington dad with stage 4 cancer to Germany for ‘glimmer of hope’ clinical trial

A fundraiser has been set up to send a Haddington dad-of-two to Germany for a ‘glimmer of hope’ clinical trial after he received a shock diagnosis of Stage 4 bowel cancer on Father’s Day 2020.

Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 2:15 pm

John McCallum went to hospital last year after he thought a pain in his gut may be a burst appendix, and 14 hours later he was on an operating table undergoing surgery to remove a tumour from his bowel.

Devastatingly, the tumour was found to be bowel cancer which had spread to his liver and now, after rounds of chemotherapy, NHS surgeons and oncologists have advised that because of the distribution of the cancer surgery is not an option.

“I’m a young athletic guy with no history of cancer in my family, no genetic inclinations, and I had no symptoms,” the 35-year-old bank worker said, “I had a sore gut last May and when I phoned up NHS they said because I had a fever it may have been a sign of Covid.

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John McCallum, 35, found out about his diagnosis on Father's Day 2020

“The test came back negative and three weeks later the pain came back, I thought maybe I had a burst appendix.

“I went to hospital and within 14 hours I was on an operating table, six inches of my bowel was removed but the tumour had spread to my liver. It was shocking and felt completely out of the blue, I wasn’t unwell and in May I was running 5k a day keeping myself busy and entertained in the first lockdown.”

After his surgery, John underwent two rounds of chemotherapy, and while the first was successful, the second round stopped working and the cancer spread again. He is now set to undergo second line chemotherapy in the hopes that it will work.

Due to the distribution of the tumours, NHS surgeons and oncologists have said that surgery is now an option, that was when his wife Lorna Forsyth, who has a medical background began to look into other options.

The couple have found a surgeon in Germany willing to perform potentially life saving experimental liver surgery.

Writing on the GoFundMe page, Lorna wrote: “The surgeons have said they don't think John's liver will ever be operable. This is obviously devastating and we want to do everything we can to keep him here with us. We have two beautiful little girls, aged just three and one, and we want them to grow up with their doting daddy.

“I found out about a clinical trial in Germany that is using live donor liver transplants for bowel cancer patients that have previously been deemed inoperable. This could be John's only chance. He needs to have stability on his next 2 months of chemotherapy and the window will be very narrow. This type of surgery is not currently undertaken in the UK for bowel cancer patients, so the oncologists don't know much about it. But any chance is one worth taking.”

To undergo the surgery, John has to find his own donor, then doctors will perform three operations, the first taking the right hand side of the donor’s liver to transplant into John.

He will then need to wait for a few weeks to ensure his body does not reject the organ before then performing another surgery to remove the left side of his own liver.

He also must qualify for the surgery proving himself to be fit and healthy, for which he currently has a personal trainer through the NHS to keep him on track with exercise and nutrition.

Since launching the fundraiser on Sunday, more than £30,000 has already been raised. The total amount that the couple are looking to fundraise is £220,000 to cover the three surgeries.

“The response has been overwhelming and people have been incredible,” John said, “There’s people I don’t know and have never spoken to, or people who I haven’t spoken to in years donating and I am extremely thankful for them.”

To donate in aid of John’s surgery, please visit the GoFundMe website.

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