Sunderland woman who beat cancer makes heartfelt appeal for new wheelchair after car arson attack destroyed vital lifeline

A Sunderland woman, who was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour in her spine when she was a teenager, is fundraising for a new wheelchair after hers was destroyed in a suspected senseless arson attack.

Saturday, 11th January 2020, 8:00 am

Alex Mills’ wheelchair was in the boot of her car which was torched in a suspected arson attack in Grangetown.

Several cars were targeted in the same area earlier this month and Alex’s wheelchair was destroyed in the blaze.

Now Alex, who was just 17-years-old when she was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma bone cancer, is appealing for funds to buy a replacement wheelchair.

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Alex Mills is fundraising for a new wheelchair after hers was destroyed in arson attack.

More than £300 has already been donated after the University of Sunderland student set up a Go Fund Me page.

Alex, who was visiting a friend’s house when her car set alight in the early hours of New Year’s Eve, said: “The car next to mine was set on fire and it spread to the back of mine. My wheelchair was in the boot and has been completely destroyed.

“When I saw the fire I just started to panic.”

After a long journey Alex, now aged 22, is able to walk with crutches but relies on a wheelchair whenever she leaves the house.

The damage to Alex's car following an arson attack. Her wheelchair was in the boot.

The student underwent emergency spinal surgery when the tumour was discovered on her spine when she was 17-years-old, before going through 14 rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiotherapy.

She said: “I’m 22 now but when I was 17 I was diagnosed with cancer.

“I had physiotherapy everyday I was in hospital, I was in hospital for nine months, slowly learning to walk again.

“I’ve moved from big walking equipment to a frame then eventually crutches which is where I’m at now.

Alex Mills.

“My walking won’t get much better I can only get stronger.

“I can manage getting around the house but I wouldn’t be able to make it to the end of the street.

“I need a wheelchair to get about and I’m about to head back to university after the Christmas break.”

Sunderland City Council provides a wheelchair that is fit for purpose but Alex, who has been in remission from cancer for over four years, has to pay the extra money for a light-weight wheelchair.

“To get a wheelchair that is lightweight and isn’t bulky I have to provide the difference in cost,” said Alex.

“I need to get fitted for a new one. It's just going to take a while to get a wheelchair sorted. They can range in price with anything from £1,500 to £5,000.”

Before the arson attack, the chemistry student had only had her specialised mobility car for a year and a half.

Thankfully, Motability, a charity which provides cars for disabled people, were able to provide a courtesy car hours after the blaze and Alex says she has nothing but praise for the organisation.

Alex has also thanked her ‘guardian angel’ who brought her a wheelchair to use after seeing her story on social media.

The former Southmoor Academy student said: “There was a lovely bloke from the community who saw what happened on Facebook. He came by and dropped off a wheelchair for me to use. I can’t thank him enough for that.”

To donate to the fund click here.

A police investigation into the car fires is ongoing.