A grandmother has said ‘major delays’ in her NHS treatment may have led to her developing terminal bowel cancer after being diagnosed eight months after she was admitted to hospital.
Cat Mackay, 60, attended Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth in February and was told she would need an urgent biopsy after a CT scan showed a ‘thickening’ of her bowel.
But medics said they were unable to carry out the procedure until the following week and she was sent home – only to be told by letter many weeks later that her case was ‘too complex’ for Bronglais, before she was transferred to a hospital in Hereford.
It took a total of over eight months for her to be told that she had bowel cancer. It is not clear exactly what caused the delays, and whether it was related to Covid-19.
Cat Mackay (pictured above), 60, was told she had bowel cancer after a total of eight months, following her admission to Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth in Wales in February this year
Worse news was to follow when it was discovered that her cancer had spread to both of her lungs and her liver and was now terminal.
‘When they carried out that scan in Aberystwyth in February and saw a thickening of the bowel they told me I’d be ‘red flagged’ as an emergency – and I heard nothing,’ she said.
‘That was eight months ago and the cancer may not have metastasised (spread) at that point, which means I could have had surgery and I could have been cured.’
Mother-of-three Mrs Mackay, from Llanddewi, near Llandrindod Wells, Powys, said during the interim period between her first scan at Bronglais Hospital and her eventual cancer diagnosis in September she was suffering at home.
‘When I was experiencing low-level pain it would feel like a very heavy period. I’d just want a hot water bottle and some paracetamol,’ she said.
‘But at its worst I would pass out, I would vomit, I would be lying on the bathroom floor in absolute agony, sometimes for up to five hours at a time.’
Despite sending several emails and getting her GP to contact Bronglais Hospital staff for an update, Mrs Mackay said she was told she was being referred back to her old doctor in Essex, where she lived before Christmas 2019, who had previously treated her for a series of bowel problems.
‘Eventually another GP from my local practice finally referred me to a hospital in Hereford after my bloods showed an anomaly in cell count and iron,’ she said.
The mother-of-three (above) from Powys said she was suffering at home during the interim period between her first scan and diagnosis
‘A doctor contacted me, we had a quick chat, and a sigmoidoscopy [an exam to assess the lower part of the large intestine] and a biopsy took place a couple of weeks later followed by a scan. Then again silence.
‘After many calls to the [Hereford] hospital I was told that the consultant who had requested the procedures had been a locum and I had been re-referred to another doctor.’
In September, around six weeks after the biopsy, Mrs Mackay said she was called to the Hereford hospital on her own – due to Covid-19 restrictions – for her results.
‘He looked at me and said: “You’ve got cancer”. He then looked down again and said it had metastasised to the lungs and liver.
‘I stood up and I was incredibly angry. I was so upset at the way he’d told me and the fact this should have been picked up in February.’
Mrs Mackay said the doctor ‘ran out of the room’ and brought in a nurse as well as her husband Darren to repeat the devastating diagnosis.
He also explained that she would need a stent fitted in her bowel before she could have any treatment – a procedure which ended up needing to be removed five days later.
Mrs Mackay, who has now been fitted with a stoma bag following her failed stent procedure, said she will now undergo a variety of different types of chemotherapy. She is now under an oncologist at Velindre Cancer Centre in Whitchurch, Cardiff.
‘I’m falling apart one minute and I’m strong as anything the next,’ she said.
Despite sending several emails and getting her GP to contact Bronglais Hospital (above) staff for an update, Mrs Mackay said she was told she was being referred back to her old doctor in Essex
‘The doctor has told me that I will start my chemotherapy on November 10, which will be at either Velindre or Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr.’
Mrs Mackay, who has spent her life helping disadvantaged and vulnerable young children, said she is determined not to let the disease kill her. She is now making a formal complaint to Hywel Dda University Health Board.
‘I have got a wonderful family and amazing friends to get me through this,’ she added. ‘I’m not ready to go. I haven’t finished yet.’
A GoFundMe page has now been set up for Mrs Mackay in a bid to raise funds for potential private treatments.
In response to her claims, Andrew Carruthers, director of operations for Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: ‘I am sorry to hear of Mrs Mackay’s experience. I understand this must be an extremely difficult time for Mrs Mackay and her family.
‘I strongly encourage Mrs Mackay to contact the health board through our patient support team so that we can work with her and investigate her concerns.’