Bereaved Story

IBS Awareness Month: “I wanted them to realise that she wasn’t making a fuss over nothing”

In another case study for IBS Awareness Month, Helen Armstrong shares the story of her mother, Sandra.

Helen Armstrong

Mum had always been a fit, healthy and active person who rarely needed to go to the doctors. She spent ages with small symptoms, going to the doctors, for example, her eye closed for no reason, she needed to drink lots of water while eating to help her food go down, she kept being sick while swelling food (as though it wouldn’t go down), she went for gastro cameras, and her stomach issues were passed off as IBS.

Mum was told to monitor her diet (which had always been healthy) and no one linked together any of these things. We wanted to say, look at mum’s records, in her 65-years, she’s hardly ever been to the doctors. In fact, some hospital staff commented on how thin her file was. I wanted them to realise that she wasn’t making a fuss over nothing!

When cancer was identified via blood markers, it was ovarian cancer that was first looked at due to the stomach pains that she had. However, there was nothing on any scans to show this. They then said the cancers they did find, in her liver and bowels, were secondary cancers, and they couldn’t find the primary sight and labelled her as CUP.

The consultant did not mention cancer, to begin with, it was when the MacMillan nurse came to visit us on the ward, she talked to us honestly and first used the word cancer. We were not happy about the stage of cancer, only that it was incurable and mum’s only option was chemotherapy that may prolong her life. It did, but mum had given up and there was no quality of life as she did not want to do anything, go anywhere or see anyone (other than very few family and very close friends).

Mum died, October 2015, aged 66, after her pancreatic cancer diagnosis in May 2015.