A mother learned she had terminal cancer while undergoing a caesarean section – after doctors dismissed her symptoms as anxiety and labeled her a hypochondriac.
Lois Walker, 37, had suffered from stomach pain for more than 12 months.
But it wasn’t until her son Ray was born by caesarean section in 2021 that she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer – and told she was going to die.
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The British mother-of-three had called her GP 20 times during the COVID lockdown – and made numerous trips to the hospital emergency room – to be given anxiety medication and told to stay home away from dairy products.
Heartbreakingly, surgeons discovered cancer in her ovaries, the lining of her abdomen and in her lymph nodes after the birth of her son by Caesarean section.
And although she’s had six rounds of chemotherapy and two operations, doctors now say there’s no way to stop the disease from killing her.
“It’s been absolutely diabolical,” Lois said.
“They call themselves medical professionals, and they’re supposed to provide us with care, but that’s negligence.
“I just feel like it could have been caught earlier, so I wouldn’t have this late diagnosis – and I’m leaving three kids behind.”
Lois, a buyer at an engineering company, first fell ill in June 2020 when she experienced strange toileting habits and swelling around her diaphragm.
She regularly called doctors at a medical practice in Worsbrough, South Yorkshire, and went to Barnsley Hospital, but was told she might have irritable bowel syndrome.
Lois kept calling her GP as her symptoms worsened, but the doctors just offered her medication for the hypochondria.
“I was going to the doctors, but I couldn’t tell them anything new because it was still the same symptoms, so they treated me with antacids,” she said.
“Then I was told it could be health anxiety, so they put me on citalopram.
“It was absolutely diabolical.“
“I’ve had skin cancer before, so I said to my doctor, ‘You don’t think I might have cancer?’
“And he said, ‘Oh no, it’s just that you’re getting older and bodies don’t work as well’.”
In December 2020, Lois found out she was pregnant and 14 weeks later was in terrible pain from her gender reveal scan.
“I couldn’t take this pain, and the further the pregnancy progressed, the more excruciating it became,” she said.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t walk or eat.
“The doctor said I was the same weight I was 12 months ago, and at that time I was nine months pregnant – and that didn’t seem to raise alarm bells.”
When the pain became too much to bear, Lois finally told the doctors she was ready to kill herself if they didn’t take her worries seriously.
She was admitted to hospital for pain management where she was given morphine.
But again, there was no thorough investigation by doctors into the cause of the pain.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back was when they had to involve the mental health team because I said it got to the point where I would have to end both of our lives, and I’m ashamed of say it,” Lois said.
Her doctor then investigated further and found a lump behind her stomach, which led to them giving birth 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 most likely had cancer.
“When they opened up to me, he said, ‘I thought you said you didn’t have abdominal surgery? and I said no, said Lois.
“That’s when I knew something had been found, because they called a few doctors.
“They just said, basically, my abdomen was so sick they needed to send biopsies and I had to wait.
“But I knew it anyway. The doctor grabbed my hand and he cried, and he even said he would let me down.
Although she underwent chemotherapy shortly after being diagnosed, Lois learned that her cancer had spread – and would be terminal.
She said: “My liver had fused with my diaphragm so it had to be reduced.
“My bladder had fused to the back of my stomach, so it had to be reduced, and all my ovaries had fused.
“It’s just a comfortable life for as long as I have left.“
“Then I got the devastating news that it’s also on my intestines, my stomach and my liver.
“Obviously it’s never good – those are my main organs that I need.
“It’s pretty much a comfortable life for as long as I have left, and that’s where we are at the minute.”
Worsbrough Medical Practice said it was “sorry to hear Ms Walker’s concerns about her care and that she did not feel heard”.
“We conducted a review of Ms. Walker’s care and referrals for testing and shared those results with her at that time,” he said.
“Unfortunately we cannot comment further due to our duty of confidentiality.”
Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said the hospital was “sorry to hear that Ms Walker has concerns about her care”.
“We urge any patient with concerns about the care they have received to contact our Patient Advice and Complaints Team who investigate patient concerns to ensure that action is taken in a timely and appropriate manner. .”
A Fundraising was created in the name of Lois.
If you need help with a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For more information about depression, contact Beyondblue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local healthcare professional or someone of confidence.
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