A new mother was told she had terminal cancer while undergoing a caesarian after doctors dismissed her symptoms as “anxiety” and labeled her a hypochondriac.
Lois Walker, 37, had stomach pain for more than 12 months but it was not until her son Ray was born by caesarean section in 2021 that she was diagnosed with stage four cancer.
The mother-of-three placed 20 calls to her GP during lockdown and made numerous trips to A&E only to be given anxiety drugs and told to stay away from dairy.
Heartbreakingly, surgeons found cancer in her ovaries, the lining of her abdomen and lymph nodes after her son was born by caesarean section.
And though she has had six rounds of chemotherapy and two operations, doctors now say there is no way to stop the disease from killing her.
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.”
Ms Walker, 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.
She kept phoning her GP as her symptoms worsened, but the doctors just offered her drugs for hypochondria.
Ms Walker 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.”
Ms Walker found out she was pregnant in December 2020, and 14 weeks later she was left in terrible pain following an ultrasound scan.
She said: “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.”
Ms Walker said when the pain got too much to bear, she finally told doctors that she was prepared to kill herself if they did not take her concerns seriously.
She was admitted to hospital for pain management where she was given morphine, but again there was no in-depth investigation by doctors into what was causing the pain.
She added: “Then the final straw was when they had to get the mental health team involved because I said that it had reached the point where I would have to end both our lives, and I feel ashamed to say that.”
Ms Walker’s doctor then conducted a more thorough probe into her concerns and found a mass behind her womb – leading them to deliver her baby the next day.
And on September 3, 2021, as she went into labor with her third son, Ray, she found out from the doctor treating her that she likely had cancer.
Ms Walker 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.”
Despite undergoing chemotherapy soon after she got her diagnosis, Ms Walker then found out that her cancer had spread, and 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 my ovaries had fused.
“Then I had the devastating news that it’s also on my bowels, my stomach and my liver..
“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.”