A young Hull man whose life was saved by the generous people of Hull after being diagnosed with terminal cancer says he is “looking forward to the future”.
In 2014, Kye Eastwood, now 28, faced an unimaginable battle after being told there was nothing more UK doctors could do for him in his battle against Hodgkin’s Lymphoma - but there was hope.
The people of Hull heroically clubbed together and raised £46,000 within a month, paying for ground breaking - and life-saving - stem cell - treatment in Maryland, US.
Now, five years on, Kye and his fiancé Chanelle Urquhart, 24, of Kingswood, are looking forward to their lives together - after what Kye has described as one of the most difficult years of his life.
Although the pioneering treatment cleared Kye of cancer, Kye has ongoing health issues. He is still undergoing chemotherapy and he is unable to work.
Despite this, he was told he was not allowed his PIP (Personal Independence Payment) benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after he underwent an eligibility assessment.
He said the report was "all wrong", stating he could do a number of things he could not do, which meant he was deemed fit for work.
He said: “The report said I had a healthy complexion - that is completely wrong in the first place because of the vitiligo (pigmentation of the skin) I have.”
Chanelle said he also split open a sore on his back trying to lift his arms further above his head during the assessment and it still needs treatment months later.
Although he has since had his benefits reinstated after the report was proved to be wrong, the trauma of living without any income and the strain it put on him for months has taken its toll.
He said: “Someone came around in March – they’d decided I was poorly enough for them to come to me rather than me go to them. I was on my cycle of chemo at the time and having massive allergic reactions.
“Everything in the report was wrong and the woman who came didn’t even look at any of the medical evidence and made out that I could move more.
"What the report said was not reflective of what happened in the meeting. We got a letter saying I wasn’t entitled and why, and the report she’d sent off.”
Kye appealed and received another assessment and a complaint was put into the DWP by Chanelle, who sent pictures of Kye’s skin and statements from every one of his doctors and specialists who see him in Rotherham.
Three months later, Kye’s benefits were reinstated.
Chanelle said: “He was three months without them, which help with his mobility. He was struggling to get to Rotherham, the treatment which ultimately keeps him alive.”
She added the complaint has been escalated and is being looked at by an independent case examiner.
A DWP spokesman said: "We have apologised to Mr Eastwood for the confusion over his reapplication for PIP. It was resolved promptly and he is in receipt of all the benefits he is entitled to."
Chanelle said Kye would love nothing more than to go back to work but he needs something flexible that could work around treatment and hospital appointments.
She said: “He was always working before the cancer and would love to go back to work and do things but it’s trying to find something he would be able to do safely, and something that would work around his health problems.”
Kye added: “I don’t know an employer that would want me to be off at least a week every month while I go to my appointments.
During Kye's treatment the couple flew back and forth to Washington for a period of seven months and were able to stay at the “amazing” centre along with other families of people having treatment there.
During the time between treatments, they were able to explore the country and while staying in San Antonio in 2015 when they had been together for just six months, Kye proposed.
Chanelle said: “At the time it happened, we hadn’t been together for very long but we didn’t know if he was going to survive. We instantly clicked and it was obvious it was going to work out.”
Kye said: “I knew I was going to do it. We’d known each other for years.”
Five years later and they are still going strong - Chanelle even got to be the one to tell Kye he was cancer-free.
She said: “He was in America and I’d had to stay at home because I couldn’t get the time off work.
"They’d done a scan and the doctor had emailed me and told me he was completely clear. I was in Morrisons and was crying. I was trying to call him but he didn’t have any signal.
“I got through to him and just said, ‘your cancer has completely gone'. Then he went to the car and told his mum.”
Despite the relief at being given the all clear, Kye has faced difficulty during his recovery and still suffers side effects from all of his treatments.
Not long after he was told he was in remission, he started to suffer with a condition called Graft Versus Host Disease (GvHD).
The disease is classed as a medical complication of receiving of transplanted tissue from a different person – such as Kye’s stem cell treatment.
The white blood cells left in the donated tissue only recognise the receiver as foreign and begin to attack the receiver’s cells.
This has left Key with patches of dry skin on his body. His skin is thinner and he has vitiligo, which changes the pigment and colour.
Kye said: “It started with a bit of itchy skin and I had a dry patch that wouldn’t go away and we went for blood tests and they kept coming back really abnormal, my liver levels were through the roof.”
Chanelle said: “That was quite worrying as it’s quite dangerous and they were trying all sorts of things.”
He now goes to Rotherham every week for treatment for the GvHD, and is on daily chemotherapy tablets.
He says he has tried a lot of different treatments but at the moment, this combination is working - although doctors are looking at other methods.
The GvHD in itself keeps the cancer at bay so doctors want to try and find a healthy balance.
Chanelle said: “He’s hooked up to a machine that removes a certain volume of blood cells, which they separate. They give him his red blood cells back and treat the white blood cells with a UV light before putting them back in his body."
As well as GvHD Kye suffers with fatigue, breathlessness, bad sinuses and says he is now going deaf.
He has tried to get back to his fitness level before the cancer, even trying out BMXing, but he tires easily and becomes weak.
Despite all of the stress and heartache throughout this year, the pair are now looking forward to the future.
Kye said: “Chanelle wants to finish her degree and get a job and a nice house. We’re quite different to a lot of people who get engaged and start planning a wedding straight away. We’ve got all the time in the world.
“I’ll have to be five years in remission before no more check ups, but the scares are always there.”
“They always will be,” Chanelle added.
Kye and Chanelle say a few years down the line, they are still hugely grateful to the people of Hull for helping them to save his life.
Chanelle said: “We would like to say thank you to everyone who contributed any money, or shared the story, or got involved in any of the fundraisers.
"They are what made this possible and have given Kye this second chance at life and they are why he is still here.
“He was on palliative care and was going to die – he probably wouldn’t have made it to Christmas.”
Kye said: “It feels like such a long time ago. I’m definitely looking forward to 2020."
Sophie Corcoran is a reporter for Hull Live and the Hull Daily Mail. Her interests include positive news, news about homelessness, court news and breaking news.
You can also call her on 01482 315174 or email email@example.com
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