March 2019

Treatment progressing well for former student Josh Barnfather

Since being diagnosed with angiosarcoma, a cancer affecting the inner lining of the blood vessels, 31 year old Josh Barnfather has been tackling the disease head-on thanks to the support of a large number of organisations, well-wishers, friends and family who are helping to fund experimental life-extending treatment.

Josh was born with the rare skin condition Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP) - a genetic disorder which reduces his skin’s ability to repair DNA damage caused by Ultra Violet light.

Due to the complexities arising from this unique condition, standardised cancer treatments sadly proved to be ineffective. However, specialist oncologists in London suggested that an immunotherapy treatment, not readily available on the NHS for angiosarcoma patients, could help extend his life.

Faced with costs of £100,000 to fund a year’s worth of this specialist treatment, and with all other treatment avenues having already been explored, Josh and his family made the decision to go public with his story in an effort to help raise vital funds.

Within a matter of weeks, almost £40,000 had been raised thanks to the generosity of a multitude of people who had taken Josh’s story to their hearts.

Around the same time that the fundraising was picking up momentum, Josh was experiencing a particularly difficult period of ill health which found him dealing with a number of infections, blood transfusions, two collapsed lungs and the side effects from on-going treatments.

Despite this, Josh’s outlook remained stoically positive. The support received through his fundraising campaign, coupled with his determination to begin his first course of immunotherapy, meant that on Friday 2nd November he was able to start the treatment. Four months later, the results speak for themselves.

During a recent visit to Withernsea High School, Josh commented: ‘I was in a pretty bad way four months ago and if I didn’t get started with the immunotherapy, I might not have been around now. My most recent scans show an 80% reduction of the overall cancer since starting this treatment, which is amazing. Although there are no guarantees that the immunotherapy will continue working, for now everyone is really positive and encouraged by these results’.
Josh returned to his former high school on Wednesday 27th February to collect a cheque and thank staff and students for their contribution to his fund. Through a number of fundraising initiatives, including a sponsored 18 mile walk from Withernsea to Hull and the sale of cakes and refreshments led by the school’s Learning Support team, a grand total of £2221 was raised by the school community. In treatment terms, this amount covers one quarter of the cost of a full cycle of immunotherapy.

Speaking to School Media Coordinator Tim Nuttall, Josh added: ‘I would like to take this opportunity not only to thank everyone at the school, but everyone who has donated to my fund so far. These contributions really do make a difference and I’m really grateful for the support I’ve received. It’s important to say that since being diagnosed with this cancer, knowing that I’ve got the support of so many people has been very much appreciated.’  

Mr Nuttall commented: ‘It was a privilege to welcome Josh back to Withernsea High School and to present him with this donation. His story has touched many people in the local community and beyond and we are delighted to hear that the immunotherapy treatment is having a positive impact on his current health. Josh is an inspirational young man, not only due to his handling of his illness, but because of the success he has gone on to achieve in his career. We look forward to welcoming Josh back to the school in the near future where he is keen to work with current students and share his expertise in engineering.’  

A little less than a month after Josh began his immunotherapy treatment, he completed his PhD in Nuclear Engineering. An achievement which is testament to the strength of his character and his determination to succeed. 

While work may bring a welcome distraction from the confines of cancer, Josh’s treatment continues and the necessity to raise more funds is ever-present.

With around 66% of the target now achieved, and with each cycle of treatment costing £8,400, donations are still being encouraged via Josh’s official Just Giving page to ensure his treatment can continue. 


The £2221 raised for Josh by the Withernsea High School community includes:

• £1808 raised by a group of 22 Sixth Form students and staff who successfully completed an 18 mile walk from Withernsea to Hull along the route of the old railway line.  Related article: Sixth Form students help keep fundraising on track with sponsored walk

£94 collected from the sale of refreshments at Parents' Evenings and £66 from a Cake Sale. Both initiatives were led by the school's Learning Support team, some of whom helped support Josh when he was a student at the school.

• £55 in donations from staff - in lieu of sending Christmas Cards.

• £120 in donations from the school's annual 'Mufti' day, where students pay a small donation to dress in non school uniform.

• £77 donated by Cover Supervisor Paul Whittaker from money raised by his participation in the annual Boxing Day Dip.  

ABOVE (left to right): Ellie Barnfather (Josh's Sister), Chris Moyse (Support Assistant - Finance), Josh Barnfather and Headteacher Mark Crofts. Mrs Moyse was one of 22 people who also took part in the fundraising walk to Hull.

ABOVE: Learning Support team members Diane Bosman, Dawn Sleight and Elaine McCreaddie with Josh and Ellie. Mrs Bosman and Mrs Sleight helped to raise money by providing refreshments at Parents' Evenings. Along with Mrs McCreaddie, they also organised a successful Cake Sale.

ABOVE: Josh and Ellie with Teacher of Dance Jamie Hughes and Sixth Form students (left to right) Elle Reid, Charlotte Tune and Emma Dean. All three students, along with Mrs Hughes, also took part in the sponsored walk to Hull.