FAMILY and friends of a brave Chester mum battling cancer have smashed a £50,000 fundraising target to ensure she continues receiving life-saving treatment abroad.
The news comes just four weeks after a JustGiving page was set up and three weeks after The Leader and sister paper The Standard ran front page stories on Nicola Hitchen.
It means the mum-of-two, from Great Boughton, can finish her course of treatment at a specialist chemotherapy centre in Istanbul, Turkey.
Told four months ago that her cervical cancer was terminal, she has since defied the doctors by undergoing pioneering treatment that has seen her tumour almost completely disappear.
In a message to her supporters, Nicola thanked the people from across the world who have read her story and felt moved to help her.
The 41-year-old, who is now back in Turkey for more treatment, said: “I am completely and totally overwhelmed at the response and I'm struggling to put into words how much it means to me.
“This fight is the hardest battle I have ever known and it's all of you who keep me going with your words of support and encouragement, the time and effort that's been taken to organise fundraising events, coffee mornings, raffle prizes, collection buckets, the list goes on. You know who you are, how can I ever thank you all enough?”
The fundraising drive is being led by Clare Hitchen, the new wife of Nicola's ex-husband Andy. The £50,000 target was obliterated on Monday (November 20) with a whopping anonymous donation of £8,550.
Clare told the Leader yesterday: “We are absolutely amazed that we’ve hit the target in four weeks since opening the page.
“We’ve had donations from friends, family and strangers from all over the world and I’m sure that has helped to make Niki's journey more bearable. The treatment is not easy and Niki is having to endure so much pain but with her positivity and determination I’m sure she will beat this.”
She added: “There will be maintenance treatment when Niki gets the all clear - we are staying focused on this as the result - and we are not stopping yet.
“My dream would be to raise enough to see Niki through all of the treatment she will need to get back to good health and enjoy a much deserved holiday with her family who have been amazing staying strong and caring for Niki throughout her journey.”
The centre in Turkey, named ChemoThermia, uses a pioneering combination of treatments to blast tumours and give the body the best chance of beating cancer.
The process has set Nicola and her family back £80,000 and with funds stretched they chose to appeal for help to raise the final £50,000 so she can complete her treatment.
In her message, Nicola, who works as an administrator at Oldfield Primary School in Vicars Cross, vowed to win her battle for the sake of her boys, Joseph, 14, and Jacob, 12.
She said: “I'll fight my hardest to get through this for you but most importantly for my boys Joseph and Jacob who have been so strong through all of this and manage to keep up their good work at school, making me prouder and prouder every day.
“We've not seen each other much over the past few months but they keep smiling and keep me going, I love you both so much, one day soon I will be home for good and our lives can get back to normal.”
* To help Nicola pay for her ongoing treatment, visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/nicola-hitchen For information on fundraising events and to follow her story, visit 'Nicola Hitchen's Lifesaving Cancer Treatment' page on Facebook.
See full story in the Chester Leader