A single mum whose lifesaving cancer treatment has been cancelled due to coronavirus has pleaded with people to stay home so she can enjoy a final few months with her children.
Toni Crews, 30, of Deal, Kent, had recovered from two episodes of life-threatening facial cancer, but on 25 March received the devastating news that it had returned and spread to multiple organs.
“I had a scan and was clear of cancer in November,” she said.
“I started driving lessons, I started to make plans, I felt like I had a second chance at life.
“But by January I was feeling unwell again and had a lump on my hip. I went to my doctor and was sent for scans, X-rays and tests.
“I was terrified but I knew what was happening, I knew it had come back. My first thought was just for my children. I have to stay strong for them.”
Two biopsies in March revealed that Crews’ cancer had returned and was terminal. On 25 March she received a phone call to tell her the cancer had spread throughout her body.
“My oncologist said he would usually send me to the Royal Marsden for clinical trials, or I could receive life-prolonging chemo, but all these options have disappeared because of coronavirus,” Crews told Yahoo News UK.
“Without treatment I don’t know how long I have. I may not make it through coronavirus.
“I just hope I have enough time to make some memories with my children when lockdown is over. I just want them to have a few photos so that they can have memories of happy times with me.
“They have always wanted to go to Legoland but I have never been able to take them. If I could do that it would mean the world to me.”
Crews, who is mum to Charlie, eight, and Faith, seven, is caring for her children alone as they self-isolate.
She is part of the most vulnerable section of society to coronavirus, but because her diagnosis came two days after the government sent out letters prioritising vulnerable patients, she cannot get a priority shopping slot from a supermarket.
“I don’t think people understand the gravity of the situation,” she said.
“They don’t understand the people they are harming. People like me. If we remain in lockdown I might never leave the house with my children again. If I get coronavirus I will die.
“I simply cannot go out. My oncologist has already told me that if I needed a ventilator they would not put me on one, because I am not expected to make it through this anyway.”
Now two of Crews’ oldest friends, Louise and Becky, have set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the mum-of-two to fund a day out or even a holiday if she is well enough to still leave the house when the coronavirus threat has subsided.
Crews said: “I am just grateful that I have such a supportive network of friends and family. People are leaving food on the doorstep and checking on me all the time. My mum and dad have been brilliant and I just can’t believe how kind my friends have been to set up this page.
“I don’t want to look like I am asking for anything, but if I was able to take Faith and Charlie to Legoland once this is over, or even Disney, it would mean the world to us all.
“Even just to have a few photos of a day out. I just want them to have happy memories and photographs to hold on to once I am gone.”
Becky told Yahoo News UK: “Time is running out. We know only a miracle can save our friend and we feel so helpless. I can drive her to appointments or leave shopping on her doorstep, but I can’t hug her or tell her things will get better.
“I just want to do something and if we can raise some money so Toni can have a day out with her children, or a break with her family, before the end of her life, at least I will have done something.”
Louise said: “Urgent treatment is Toni’s only hope, but due to the coronavirus causing hospitals to cancel her life-saving treatment it is simply not going to happen in time. Toni's time remaining with her little family could now be counted in months. The children are going to lose their mum.”
Becky and Louise pleaded for people to donate to the fundraiser: “Firstly to help Toni and her children make as many memories together, to do all the things they could never afford before, before it is too late, and secondly to put into trust a financial future for her children.”
Crews began battling blurred vision and headaches in July 2016. She was later diagnosed with adenocarcinoma – a type of cancer that developed in the gland of her right eye – and told her only option was to have her eye removed. A year later the cancer returned and she was forced to have a new mass removed.
Since leaving her job as a care assistant in a nursing home to undergo treatment, Crews has been creating eye patches for other sufferers to wear post-surgery.
She said: “I made one for myself and then I started up a web page, Bling-k Of An Eye. I have shipped my eye patches all over the world now but it’s not a business, it’s a way to support other people going through the same thing, and I have received so much support from people who follow me on Facebook and Instagram. It turned into a sort of blog and has been something to focus on, and keep me going.”
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As she began to recover, Crews began to make plans for her future with her children. She went abroad for the first time for Becky’s 30th birthday in November, and hoped to take her children abroad to Italy and Spain in the coming years.
Becky said: “We had such a great time in Amsterdam for my birthday, we said we would go back this year. I know that can never happen now but I just want the chance to take my best friend out for the night. The cancer may have stolen her future but coronavirus has stolen her chance to make memories with her children.
“Toni may not make it past this time but if she does I really want her to have some happiness with her children. She’s the kindest, funniest, best friend you could imagine. She’s so strong, she’s amazed everyone though this, she deserves some happiness.
“Most people might be embarrassed if they have a scar but not Toni. She wore her scar with pride, and said ‘it’s a sign I have recovered from my cancer’. Toni is beautiful and the strongest person I know, and she’s an amazing mum. My son is great friends with her children so we are calling each other three times a day and the kids are Facetiming. I don’t want to think about a time I won’t be able to do that.”
Since it was set up on Sunday evening, Crews’ GoFundMe page has received more than 160 donations, totalling more than £3,800. To donate, click here.