Tuesday, 1 October 2013


This is a comment I wrote to the NHS about the latest episode in my disease:

 "I have been nearly fatally  misdiagnosed twice in the last eight years by GPs responsible for my cancer care in the community. Four years ago, the GP diagnosed labyrinthitis, which turned out to be a brain tumour. In March this year, I was diagnosed with asthma, and  this has turned out to be a tumour on my thorax which is sticking to one of my lungs. I am now having chemotherapy and am unable to get the antibiotics I need for my chest infection because the GP has failed to issue the repeat script after three requests. I am very unwell and have lost all confidence in the GP's ability to care for me. I know this happens to many others in similar situations.

I asked my consultant oncologist if I could go direct to him in future; and the neurosurgeon who treated me last time asked me to 'promise to cut out the middleman' if the disease came back.. Had I listened to his advice, I might not be so ill now.

How are patients like me, who have a chronic disease, who live alone and depend on GPs for repeat prescriptions, supposed to cope outside the hospital? l We have excellent hospital care for cancer in Truro at The Sunrise Centre at RCH Treliske, but the doctors there who fight for their patients are badly let down by the 'middlemen' in the GP practice. I worry about all those patients at home who experience neglect and indifference from general practitioners who appear to know very little about chronic disease like cancer, in spite of having hospital records about a patient's history. Seven months ago, I went to my GP with a chest infection and persistent cough - now badly infected.  I was prescribed two different sorts of antibiotics, then a Ventolin inhaler, then a steroid inhaler.  Every time  he tried something new,  the GP told to come back in three weeks if it didn't work.

There seems  to be no option for me in future but to go straight to A & E. The GP out of hours service is hopeless. I am fortunate that I am still an outpatient at the oncology clinic, otherwise I probably would not be writing this today. "


Of course, this is history repeating itself. It was the same scenario four years ago when the labyrinthitis turned out to be a brain tumour. I got through that, thanks to my oncologist, Dr Whateley and neurosurgeon, Mr Fewing.  This time, the GP did send me for a chest x-ray 'in view of my history'; but I was told by my home care nurse that an x-ray wouldn't show a tumour in the centre of my chest. It was left to Dr Wheatley to find that out. I wonder just what GPs do to justify their living? Staring into a screen and doling out  drugs willy nilly is the standard practice. That doesn't look good for people like me, does it??


On a lighter note, I saw my daughter off to Barcelona last week where she is taking a gap year as a conversation assistant in a local school. I was going to go out there in November to see her, but I'll be knocked out with chemo et al for the next six months; and then there's the recovery. I insisted she grasp the opportunity instead of sitting here watching me being treated. It isn't over. I'll get through it. It's just another stage. And I'm looking forward to a Brittany Break with seafood....


photos by Terry Webb