A massive fundraising campaign is under way to help a cancer-stricken Springfield mum whose life has already been blighted by tragedy.
Leigh Smith (46), whose nine-year-old daughter Gemma Campbell was killed in a car accident in 2003, has been diagnosed with chordoma, a form of cancer that affects the bones of the skull and spine.
It’s so rare that the proton beam therapy that Leigh needs is only available in America - and although the NHS is funding the treatment, thousands more will be needed for living expenses.
Leigh will be treated in Florida and her sister Arlene Collins, who lives in Halifax, is taking unpaid leave from work to accompany her.
Leigh’s eldest daughter Amy (27) will look after her other daughters Samantha (14) and Marli (8) while she’s away.
“Chordoma is a slow-growing cancer but it’s very resilient and likely to recur,” said Leigh.
“It’s so rare that mine was the first case my oncologist had seen.
“I heard about proton beam therapy because of the case of the young boy who was taken abroad by his parents to have the treatment.”
Proton beam therapy uses beams of protons - sub-atomic particles - to kill cancerous cells.
Unlike conventional radiotherapy, the beam of protons stops once it ‘hits’ the cancerous cells, resulting in much less damage to surrounding tissue.
Leigh first noticed something was wrong when she developed palsy in her tongue.
She underwent nine hours of surgery in January, during which 80 per cent of the tumour was debulked and a biopsy carried out.
In February she was given the devastating diagnosis that she was suffering from chordoma.
Now her lifelong friend Val El-Dieb, ‘mine host’ of Cupar’s Golf Tavern, is planning a series of fundraising events and Arlene has set up an online crowdfunding page in the hope of raising around £5000 to help cover Leigh’s costs over the 10 weeks she’s expected to have to stay in Florida.
The first event, a charity auction, takes place at the Golf Tavern on June 10, with a charity football match and bikini car wash among the other fund-raisers being planned.
As yet, Leigh doesn’t have a date for her treatment, as the NHS is awaiting word from the Jacksonville Hospital where she’ll be treated.
Leigh is no stranger to heartbreak. Her daughter Gemma died along with her friend Gemma Forbes as they crossed the road in Springfield, and just five months later her father died suddenly.
She said: “Life has been very difficult but I just have to take each day as it comes.”