A new mum was told she had terminal cancer while undergoing a C-section, after doctors dismissed her symptoms as ‘anxiety’.
Lois Walker, 37, suffered with stomach pain for more than 12 months but it wasn’t until her son Ray was born by caesarean section in 2021 that she discovered she had stage 4 cancer.
‘It’s been diabolical’
Before her son’s birth, the mum-of-three made 20 calls to her GP during lockdown and made multiple trips to A&E only to be given anxiety medication and told to stay away from dairy.
Tragically, surgeons found cancer in her ovaries, the lining of her abdomen and lymph nodes after her son was born.
Despite having six rounds of chemotherapy and two operations, doctors sadly say there is no way to stop the cancer.
Lois said: “It’s been absolutely diabolical. They call themselves health professionals and they’re supposed to be giving us care, but that is negligence.
“I just feel like it could have been caught sooner, so I wouldn’t have this late diagnosis - and I’m leaving three kids.
“If the NHS does not acknowledge that things need to change then I feel sorry for everybody and anybody.”
‘I was told I had health anxiety’
Lois, a buyer at an engineering firm, first became unwell in June 2020 when she experienced strange bathroom habits and swelling around her diaphragm.
She regularly called doctors at Dove Valley Practice, in Worsbrough, and visited Barnsley Hospital, but was told she may have irritable bowel syndrome.
As her symptoms became worse, she kept phoning her GP for advice but was instead just offered drugs for hypochondria.
She said: “I was going to the doctors, but I couldn’t tell them anything new because it was the same symptoms always, so they treated me with antacids.
“Then, I got told it could be health anxiety, so they put me on citalopram.
“I already suffered from skin cancer, so I said to my doctor, ‘You don’t think I could have cancer?’ And he said, “Oh no, it’s just you getting old and bodies don’t work as well.”
In December 2020 she found out she was pregnant and 14 weeks later, after her gender reveal scan, was left in terrible pain which left her unable to walk or eat.
She explained: “I could not deal with this pain, and the further the pregnancy went on, the more excruciating it became. It got to the point where I couldn’t walk or eat.
“The doctor said that I weighed the same as I did 12 months ago, and by this time, I was nine months pregnant – and that didn’t seem to ring any alarm bells.”
When the pain became too much to bear, Lois said she told doctors she was prepared to kill herself if they did not take her concerns seriously.
She was then admitted to hospital for pain management and given morphine, but doctors did not carry out any in-depth investigation to find out what was causing her so much pain.
A mental health team was eventually involved after Lois told doctors she had reached the point where she would have to end both her and her unborn baby’s life, admitting she felt “ashamed to say that”.
Her doctor then conducted a more thorough probe into her concerns and discovered a mass behind her womb, which prompted medics to deliver the baby the following day.
‘The doctor said he had let me down’
On 3 September 2021 Lois went into labour with her third son, Ray, and was told by the doctor treating her that she most likely had cancer.
She said: “When they opened me up, he said, ‘I thought you said you didn’t have any abdominal surgery?’ and I said I hadn’t.
“That’s when I knew something had been found, as they called a few doctors in.
“They just said, basically, that my abdomen was so diseased that they needed to send off some biopsies and I’d have to wait. But I knew anyway.
“The doctor actually grabbed my hand and he cried and he actually said that he’d let me down.”
Lois underwent chemotherapy as soon as she got her diagnosis, but she was later told the cancer had spread and that it would be terminal.
She said: “My liver had fused to my diaphragm, so that had to be cut back. My bladder had fused to the back of my womb, so that had to be cut back, and all my ovaries had fused.
“Then I had the devastating news that it’s also on my bowels, my stomach and my liver. Obviously, that’s never good – they’re my main organs that I need.”
"It’s just about a comfortable life for however long I’ve got left, and that’s where we are at the minute."
A spokesperson from Dove Valley Practice said: "We are sorry to hear Ms Walker’s concerns about her care and that she didn’t feel listened to.
"We carried out a review of Ms Walker’s care and referrals for tests and we shared those findings with her at that time.
"We welcome anyone with concerns about the care they have received with us to get in touch so we can investigate. Unfortunately, we cannot comment further due to our duty of confidentiality."
A spokesperson from Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust added: "Barnsley Hospital is sorry to hear that Ms Walker has concerns about her care.
"We welcome any patient with concerns about the care they have received to get in touch with our Patient Advice and Complaints Team which investigates patient concerns to ensure action is taken in a timely and appropriate manner."
A fundraiser has been set up for Lois and donations of more than £8,000 have already been made.