A mum who claims she couldn’t see her doctor for months as she experienced abdominal pains during lockdown has been diagnosed with bowel cancer.
Brenda Chirila started experiencing severe abdominal pain and discomfort just before the coronavirus pandemic struck.
She knew something wasn’t right and tried book an appointment with her doctor, but as the country went into lockdown, she told the Manchester Evening News this became difficult.
From the end of March until July, the mum-of-one from Partington, Greater Manchester, claims she was unable to see a medical professional about her symptoms.
Brenda says she was finally able to see her GP after three months, who recommended that she change her eating habits and provide some blood samples.
She claims she was referred to Wythenshawe Hospital for further tests but struggled to get an appointment as her case wasn’t classed as an emergency.
Six weeks ago, Brenda’s husband George was forced to ring an ambulance, after her pain became unmanageable.
The 42-year-old underwent X-rays, and MRI scan and a colonoscopy, which revealed the pain had been caused by a large tumour.
Brenda, who has a young daughter, was given the devastating news that she had bowel cancer, and that it had spread to her liver.
She has started chemotherapy and intends to beat the disease, but believes if she had been sent for tests sooner, her prognosis may have been different.
“The pain started around March time when the pandemic happened, so at first I thought it might be to do with not being active,” Brenda said.
“I wasn’t doing the school run, going to work or shopping around like usual.
“It (the pain) carried on and I just knew that something wasn’t right,” Brenda said.
“But I was scared about how I was going to see a doctor as we had just gone into lockdown.
“I knew I really needed to see someone face-to-face but it took me ages just to get hold of anyone at the surgery, let alone get an appointment.”
Brenda said she eventually managed to get an appointment with her GP around July, when the national lockdown had begun to ease.
“I told him that I didn’t feel right and that I wanted him to investigate the problem,” she said.
“He told me to change my diet and give some samples for them to analyse and when I went back for another appointment, I was told I had some kind of inflammation.”
Brenda was referred to Wythenshawe Hospital for further testing, but says she didn’t receive a letter in the post for nearly three weeks.
“I got a letter saying I needed to ring the hospital for a phone appointment because I wasn’t classed as an emergency and they weren’t doing routine appointments,” she said.
“Finally, I got an appointment at the hospital and by this time it was late July because I had gone back to work by this point.
“They did an MRI scan and a CT scan and then all that was left was to come back for a colonoscopy.”
The mum claims she wasn’t provided with any pain medication from either her GP or the hospital, as they didn’t know what was wrong with her.
Before she was able to return to the hospital for her colonoscopy appointment, Brenda was rushed to A+E.
“I can’t describe the amount of pain I was in, it got so bad that my husband rang an ambulance for me,” she said.
“The paramedics gave me morphine which was the first time I’d had any strong pain relief. I was sent home with codeine and told to wait for my next appointment.
“Eventually I got in for my colonoscopy appointment and they stopped the scan pretty quickly, saying there was some kind of blockage.”
Brenda says she was approached by a doctor and asked her if she had anyone with her, to which she replied ‘no’, as Covid rules did not allow.
She was told the reason for the blockage was because she had a large tumour.
“I was on my own when they told me because nobody, not even my husband was allowed to come in to the appointment with me,” she said.
“After that I was called in for an appointment with the Christie Hospital, where I was told I had bowel cancer, and that it had spread to my liver.
“I started chemotherapy straight away.”
Although Brenda knows the tumour was unavoidable, she feels her prognosis could have been improved if the process to diagnosis had been quicker.
“I know things take time but I really wish they had seen me sooner. I think it could have been a totally different situation,” she said.
Despite everything she has been through, Brenda says she is determined to beat her cancer for the sake of her family and friends.
“I am ready to fight this, I just hope I am strong enough to get through this,” she said.
“I have such amazing people around me and the support has been incredible. It gives me the strength I need.
“I just want to be myself again. Even if it means losing my hair I want to beat this.”
Her best friend Sue has set up a gofundme page to help support Brenda and her family financially through the next few months, particularly at Christmas.
A spokesperson for Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) said: “We have continued to provide cancer care during the Covid-19 outbreak except when it is considered that the risks of treatment outweigh the benefit to the patient.
“As a regional provider of cancer services, MFT offers care to patients across the whole of Greater Manchester and we are working hard to ensure our two week referral target is achieved.
“Due to patient confidentiality it would not be appropriate for us to comment on individual cases.”