Doctors dismissed mum’s cancer as ‘stress’ because she’s from a council estate, daughter says
Frankie Davies believes he mum might still be alive if she hadn’t been “fobbed off” by doctors
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Sue Davies, 54, passed away in May 2020 after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour in January that year - but her daughter believes she would still be alive if her symptoms were taken seriously.
Frankie Davies, 29, claims her mum was “fobbed off” by medics when she began experiencing ‘tell-tale’ early brain tumour symptoms, including nausea, severe headaches and reduced mobility.
Sue battled with the symptoms in the two years leading up to her diagnosis and over the course of 12 months, made four trips to see her GP only to be told she was suffering from stress.
On one occasion, she went to the hospital after fearing she had a stroke but was discharged without being given a scan. It wasn’t until January 2020 when she went back to the hospital for a CT scan after collapsing that she was told she had an inoperable brain tumour.
Frankie says her mum was told to “go and spend time with her family” and just four months later she sadly passed away.
The 29-year-old believes her mum could have lived longer if she had been sent for tests when her symptoms first showed, but the delayed diagnosis prevented her from accessing treatment that could possibly have saved her life. She also thinks her mum’s “lower class, council estate” background played a part in medics failing to take her complaints seriously.
The university worker, from Clapham, London, said: “Had she been taken seriously when she started to present her symptoms we would have likely had more time with her. She may have been able to have chemotherapy, radiotherapy and maybe even surgery to remove the tumour. Sadly, at the point of diagnosis, her tumour was inoperable.
“I believe that she wasn’t taken seriously due to her background and for being stereotyped - as a lower class, council estate individual, who smoked and probably lived a stressful lifestyle.
“The pandemic prevented her from starting chemotherapy as her first scheduled session was cancelled because she had a cough, so they told her not to come in. A week later she had a seizure and went downhill from that point onwards.
“As a family, we feel really let down. We have lost the biggest piece of the puzzle. She has left behind seven children and one grandchild and has already missed really big events in our lives since she died - such as my university graduation and engagement.”
Her concerns were ‘ignored’
Sue first began experiencing symptoms in late 2018 when she started suffering from bad memory, but as time went on she battled severe headaches and her family began to notice a change in her.
Frankie said there were days when her mum would have to stay in bed in a dark room as her migraines were so bad, but she was told by a doctor it was simply linked to stress. She added: “The symptoms did not improve and the headaches began to get worse.
“She was constantly being sick. She was sleeping a lot and she started to struggle to walk. I sent her to the doctors again and she was sent away. She was told it was stress and given stretches to help with her mobility issues.”
Frankie said the dismissal from her GP was “frustrating” as all of the family noticed something was wrong with Sue, yet their concerns were “ignored”. This resulted in the 54-year-old not feeling comfortable enough to push for more support and answers, she claims. “After being dismissed several times she had lost hope and confidence in the doctors,” she said.
Sue only survived four months after finally being diagnosed and died in May 2020 aged just 54. Frankie says she hopes that no one will have to suffer what her family went through and feels strongly that the slow diagnosis robbed her of precious time with her mum.
She said: “I feel that our background impacted how we were treated a few times throughout the journey. We were even spoken down to during hospital visits.
“From my experience, I have been able to see the impact brain tumours have on a person and the people that love them. When someone is diagnosed with a high-grade tumour, the outcome is rarely good. Because they are less common than other cancers, I feel people do not have enough awareness about them, or their signs and symptoms, which is a tragedy.
“I never want anyone to go through what we did, as it was the most painful experience that we live with the burden of every day. The sad reality is that her death gave us peace, as the suffering she experienced before and after she was diagnosed was unbearable to witness.”
Research from the Brain Tumour Charity shows that one in 10 patients in the UK are waiting more than 12 months for a brain tumour diagnosis and it is “essential” that people receive a faster diagnosis so they can access treatment.
Graham Norton, interim CEO at the Brain Tumour Charity, said: “It is absolutely essential that those facing a brain tumour diagnosis are able to access the support they so desperately need to ensure a faster diagnosis.
“Those in our community all too often have to wait an unacceptable length of time for their diagnosis and this has an impact on their treatment options, quality of life and on their loved ones. As a charity, we are campaigning for faster diagnosis because we know this is one of the best ways to support those affected by a brain tumour.
“A faster diagnosis has the potential to improve access to the available treatment options and in some cases could reduce the impact that a brain tumour has on a person’s quality of life. We want those affected by a brain tumour to feel seen and heard, and receive the support they need throughout their diagnosis and treatment.”