Family of hero war veteran who served in Army for 34 years say he's been 'abandoned' after brain tumour diagnosis | The Sun

THE family of a war veteran who served in the Army for over 34-years claims he has been “abandoned” by defence chiefs after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Staff Sergeant Sgt Leslie Athersmith, 50, who joined the Army as a 16-year-old, was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour earlier this year and may only have months left to live.

But Leslie, who fought in the first Gulf War, has been told that his life may be saved by an experimental immunotherapy treatment called DC Vax L.

The therapy, however, is not available on the NHS and a course of the treatment costs £250,000.

In desperation, Leslie’s wife Michelle has written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Ben Wallace, the former defence secretary, and to veterans’ minister Johnny Mercer asking for help.

Apart from an acknowledgement by the defence secretary’s office manager, the family’s pleas for help have fallen on deaf ears.

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The disclosure has led to senior defence chiefs calling on the Ministry of Defence to help the combat veteran without delay.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, a former head of the Army said: “If there is a treatment that can help this long-serving soldier then it should be made available to him by the NHS, funded by the MOD.

“If the Government really wants this country to be the best one in which to be a Veteran, then funding a treatment like this is a very good example of how to substantiate the Government’s claim, and save a soldier’s life.”

Colonel Richard Kemp, who also fought in the Gulf War added: “After his long years of service — in fact all of his adult life — this soldier deserves the country’s support at his hour of greatest need.

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“The MOD should certainly foot the bill to enable him to have the treatment that might save his life.”

Leslie’s family have started a fundraising campaign, selling cars and personal belongings but now fear they may run out of time before they can raise the cash.

Last night Leslie told the Sun on Sunday: “I served in the Gulf War in 1991, and in Northern Ireland.

"I have always done my job to the best of my ability and served my country proudly.

“But from the moment I fell ill I have felt let down. I have virtually had no official support or help from my unit – just my mates helping out.

“No senior officers have visited me or been in touch.

"My family have written numerous letters to the Defence Secretary and other leaders pleading for help but we have been ignored. I feel totally let down.

“I know £250,000 is a lot of money but if the MoD could help in some way I would be forever grateful.”

Leslie joined the Army in 1988 and served with the Staffordshire Regiment in the first Gulf War in 1991.

He went on to complete five tours in Northern Ireland before joining the Military Provost Guard Service in 2002.

The father of two, known as Ava to his friends, was diagnosed with a gliosarcoma brain tumour on March 19 this year.

The soldier  underwent a series of scans which revealed that he had a cancerous tumour the size of a golf ball inside his brain.

After a seven week wait, he had an operation to remove most of the tumour and underwent a course of radiotherapy.

But doctors have warned the family  the current treatment may only slow  the growth of the tumour.

Now the family are pinning their hopes on the costly DC Vax L treatment in order to cure him.

It is a vaccine where immune cells are mixed with proteins from the brain tumour cells, in the hope that the affected person’s immune system can recognise and fight the tumour.

Leslie’s wife Michelle, 50, a hospital receptionist, said: “My husband has been abandoned by the Army and the Ministry of Defence.

"After he was diagnosed and we were told about a new treatment I wrote to the defence secretary and asked for help – but no one responded.

"I suppose I’m not important enough.

“I think it is disgraceful that they can’t even be bothered to acknowledge my letter asking for help. 

"Surely they owe him that much after everything he has done for his country."

She said the new treatment called DC Vax L led to a case in the US where a woman was given three months to live.

After she had the treatment she lived another 16 years and is still alive today.

Leslie and Michelle got re-married in April weeks after Leslie’s diagnosis but the pair have been together for most of their lives.


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A Minister of Defence Spokesperson, said: “Our thoughts are with SSgt Athersmith and his family at this difficult time.

"We wish the family the best in reaching their fundraising target.”

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