An ex soldier who courageously took on tight fisted NHS chiefs in his fight against terminal cancer has passed away aged 37.
Mark Bannister, who served in Northern Ireland and Bosnia during nine years in the army, was forced to hide the truth from doctors to get life-prolonging treatment that was denied to him by a shambolic postcode lottery.
Hospital bosses declined to finance the cost of his medicine despite it being widely obtainable just 15 miles from Mark’s home in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.
He spent six months praying and pleading to be prescribed the drug Avastin but was only given it when he enrolled at practice in Sheffield, having to pretend he had moved in with a friend.
It was only then Mark had his request granted and he was administered his first treatment within 7 days.
But harrowingly the tumour he had struggled against for nearly a decade had progressed too far for the treatment to work.
The doting father of two died early on Monday morning held by his distraught wife Karen.
In a glowing tribute to her husband, Karen said: “Who knows what would have happened if he had got the drug sooner - I truly believe it would have helped him.
“He was forced to lie. We were told his chemotherapy wasn’t working and he had to either let the tumour grow or have the Avastin - we didn’t have a choice.
“How can it be so easy for some people to get it and other people are told they can’t have it at all?
“The system is completely unfair.
“We had to lie while Mark was still alive, but I don’t care who knows now.
I would urge anyone else who is going through the same thing to do what we did.
"I only wish we had done it sooner.”
It was first established Mark was suffering with a brain tumour in 2003 but after a long, brave battle he was informed last year that his cancer had developed further.
NHS bosses refused to fund the treatment despite a specialist vowing the drug could give him some extra time with his young children Sophie, 7, and Thomas, 5.
The drug prevents blood vessels reaching the tumour and for a ten-month course costs £21,000. Doctors said Mark had just 12 months left to live without the prescription.
Emotionally, Mark and Karen renewed their marriage vows last November on their tenth wedding anniversary as the future was so uncertain.
Prior to his passing, Mark made memory boxes for both Sophie and Thomas, leaving them memorable photographs and medals from his spell in the army.
Karen said: “As he died, I was holding him and cuddling him and telling him I loved him.
“I don’t think his death has sunk in yet - I don’t think I totally believe it.
I still have to break it to the children and I don’t know what I will say to them.
“Mark has written them both letters saying how much he loves them and how he is sorry he won’t get to see them grow up.
“Even after he got the Avastin he continued to campaign against the postcode lottery on behalf of others and I want to continue to do the same. It’s what he would have wanted.”
Callously, NHS Lincolnshire said judgements to finance such medicines are centred on clear clinical evidence, cost-effectiveness, the benefit to patient and consideration of national guidance.
The British National Party would like to see the end of the so called postcode lottery in healthcare.
It is nothing short of a disgrace that a former soldier, who fought for this country, was left with no choice but to lie in order to try and preserve his life once he was back in the “safety” of the UK.