Published: 13:21, 06 April 2020
| Updated: 14:20, 06 April 2020
A single mum whose rare cancer has returned for a third time says doctors have confessed it's possibly the worst timing in history.
The outbreak of coronavirus means Toni Crews from Deal - who has already had one eye removed due to the disease - cannot access a clinical trial at London's Royal Marsden Hospital.
A trial was the only hope for the 30-year-old whose type of cancer, adenocarcinoma, is chemotherapy resistant, and has now spread to her lungs and skin tissue.
Instead, she is doing her best to be practical, switching her focus on to making memories with her children, Charlie, eight and seven-year-old Faith.
Her friend Louise Jefferson set up a GoFundMe fundraiser to enable this, yesterday, and in less than 24 hours, it has exceeded its £3,000 target.
She hopes to take her children to Legoland and Disneyland as soon as the UK lockdown restrictions are lifted and also ensure some stability for them in the future.
She told KentOnline: "When I got the phone call, I had had my suspicions, so it didn't surprise me. I just asked myself, why again?
"It hit home a little more when I saw my oncologist face to face, seeing him upset about it.
"He said it was possibly the worst timing in history because all the trials have been shut down. Usually, he would be sending me to the Royal Marsden for one of those.
"Instead they have written to them asking from an opinion and to ask for me to be kept on the radar for potential trials in the future."
She continued: "It's very difficult to take on this diagnosis, especially as a single mother to two younger children.
"I just feel like I have to try and make as many memories with them as I can at this moment in time and hope for coronavirus to pass so I can look to get into London for the trials which could possibly help me recover."
Miss Crews sought medical attention for a puffy eye, which led to her first diagnosis of cancer in her tear gland in 2016.
The cancer - adenocarcinoma of the lacrimal gland - is so rare that when she rang Macmillan for advice, they said they had never heard of it.
The former Castle Community College pupil took doctors' advice to undergo a full orbital exenteration – removal of the eyeball and the surrounding tissue such as her eyelid and muscles - to give her the best chance of survival.
A tumour behind her eye socket returned in 2018 leading to her second bout of major surgery which has left her with a scar from ear to ear.
The devastating news that cancer has now returned to Miss Crews' lungs and skin tissue was delivered over the phone on March 25.
It was seven weeks after visiting the doctor for a routine check up where she raised concern over a lump on her back.
She initially thought it could be a bite but x-rays, biopsies and a CT scan have confirmed it was a small tumour.
She now has more than 20 lumps, up to 3cm wide, appearing under her skin, mainly around her ribcage and under her arms, which are beginning to cause pain.
She said: "The pain isn't anywhere near as bad as the tumour behind my eye socket. That was the worst pain I've ever experienced - worse than giving birth to my children.
"This is more of an itchiness. I'm also getting pain in my joints.
"Doctors have said they will do all they can to keep me comfortable."
Since completing radiotherapy in April 2019, Miss Crews has grabbed life with both hands.
She has earned a place to study applied criminology and forensic investigation at Canterbury Christ Church University.
She had also started driving lessons and been on holiday with friends to celebrate her 30th birthday, in addition to day trips with her family.
She said: "I've been angry because I've just been trying to get my life together. Then I've had feelings of sadness.
"In the past people would say let's stay positive. This time it feels a little more difficult to do that.
"I need to think productively and make sure I have everything organised."
Miss Crews has been honest with her children about the news but for now is enjoying time at home altogether.
She said: "The children have picked up on me going to hospital so I've said it's back and there's more poorly bits this time.
"They're off school at the moment and it's really lovely to have this time with them. We've made rainbows for the windows, planted a little garden.
"We made a den and put all our bedding inside and all snuggled up together."
She has been touched by the donations, which have not only come from friends but friends of friends and strangers.
She said: "I can't believe how generous people are being.
"I really do hope that the children and I can use the money together but it's also slight peace of mind that they have so much support from people that love and care for us."