Bexhill woman diagnosed with breast cancer campaigns for free dental care for patients ahead of chemotherapy
A Bexhill woman who was diagnosed with a rare type of breast cancer just days after her 50th birthday is raising awareness of a petition which calls for free dental care for cancer patients.
Heidi Mitchell turned 50 on May 19 and was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) just a couple of days later.
This type of cancer accounts for about 15 per cent of all breast cancers and is also not receptive to most breast cancer treatments as it is not hormone-positive.
Heidi was told her chemotherapy could not start until her dentist signed in writing to tell the chemotherapy department that her teeth are ‘treatment-fit’ as the drug Heidi would need to have – zoledronic acid – can cause the jaw bone to lose its blood supply and die if the teeth and gums are not fit enough to withstand the treatment, a process known as osteonecrosis.
Heidi attempted to book an NHS dental appointment but none were available until July or August at the earliest. As a result, she decided to go private and a dentist set up an appointment within days.
Heidi has now had most the treatment she needs, but at a cost of £2,600, which forced her to clear her bank account and even borrow money from friends and family.
She said: “I was already financially on thin ice due to lock down and my son being at university with a private landlord. We had to find a way to pay his rent even though he was not living in the property. He usually would have worked to cover his living costs but his work place shut down. It was hard for him to find a job locally and keep up with his university work.
“I also have a 15 year old daughter currently in year 10 and preparing for her GCSEs and I don’t want to have her life disrupted due to my financial situation.”
As a result of the financial strain, Heidi’s sister Donna set up a fundraising page to help cover other financial burdens that may crop up. That campaign has now raised more than £2,000.
“I was a little apprehensive about it,” said Heidi, “until she (Donna) had me read other people’s stories when they have set up crowd funders for a well deserved holiday after their treatment so I felt better after that.
“I also want to raise awareness of the free dental for cancer patients change.org petition which needs another 30,000 signatures before it can go to parliament.
“This is because, although I am financially pressed, I have been lucky enough to have friends and family I could call on to pay the immediate costs but even with an NHS dentist there are many people out there on low incomes that would not be able to afford the pre-dental, let alone the costs of cracked teeth or gum issues that may be caused by chemotherapy during their treatment.”