“When she queried this, she was told by the Pancreatic Specialist Nurse that two weeks wouldn’t make any difference to her chances of survival”
Jean Atkinson shares the story of her sister, Betty Connor. Read more below.
Betty was a long time sufferer of Rheumatoid Arthritis, so was regularly seen with her GP and the RA team and had regular blood tests. Due to previous medication, she regularly suffered from urinary tract infections and kidney infections. She had been troubled with indigestion for a long time too but this became much worse and she also developed severe eructation (belching).
Around the same time, she developed a nagging almost constant pain in her left side, seeming to envelop from the front left epigastric area all the way around her side and to the back. She was also frequently nauseated. She visited her GP with this complaint many times, usually seeing a different GP every time. Each one told her they didn’t know what it was and didn’t offer any solutions, investigations or treatments. One suggested it was a UTI and treated her for that.
Soon after this, she was diagnosed with type two diabetes which was just accepted by the medical staff despite her always being low BMI, non-smoker for a long time, never drank alcohol, healthy diet and regular exercise. After about three to four months she managed to see her own GP, who had known Betty for many years, and that if she was complaining of something, then there was something wrong (having suffered with RA since age 24, Betty was well used to coping with pain and very rarely complained or asked for help).
Her GP told Betty that the pain was too high to really be renal in origin and that she didn’t know what it was. She did though decide to do a scan urgently. This revealed a pancreatic tumour and on the 4th July 2019, Betty was given the devastating news that she probably had pancreatic cancer and would need further investigations.
Everything from this point proceeded at a snail’s pace, and it was a further three weeks before any further investigations were carried out. Even after having a biopsy, she was made to wait two weeks for the results. When she queried this, she was told by the Pancreatic Specialist Nurse that two weeks wouldn’t make any difference to her chances of survival!
She was eventually given confirmation on 26th July. After many more delays, no treatment (by the time things got organised, it was too late for any treatment) and some truly appalling care.
Betty died at home at 22:15 on the 29th of September 2019 (having arrived home from the Oncology Ward at 00:30 hours on 28th September with no end of life plan or drugs, her daughter and I arranged all of that with the help of a wonderful on-call GP) nursed by her daughters, myself and my sister.
Just 12 weeks and four days after the initial suggestion of diagnosis, and nine weeks two days after confirmation and telling all the family. Leaving her whole family, husband, two daughters, five grandchildren, two sisters, four remaining brothers, wider family and many, many, many friends totally and utterly bereft and devastated. Had that first GP just sent her for a scan, she could well still be with us.
Betty was one week away from her 67th birthday and six days from her 47th wedding anniversary when she died. Betty and her husband Jimmy had been together since they were 15 & 16. She was a wife, mother, nana, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, cousin and friend.
She was the most loving, funny, caring, kind, generous human being with the most infectious laugh and a wicked sense of humour. She loved musical theatre, her favourite being Blood Brothers, and would turn almost any situation into an excuse for a song.
She had suffered from severe Rheumatoid Arthritis since the age of 24 but never complained. She lived with pain every day but she just got on with her life. Along with her adoring husband, she brought up two lovely daughters, giving them a life full of love, laughter and songs, and refused to let her disability get in the way of the best life she could give them. She had five grandchildren who she adored and they her. She could be heard, multiple times a day, singing: “I’ll do anything, for you, dear, anything” or “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine” to one or other of her grandchildren. She had dozens of friends from all areas of life, lots of them from childhood. There were at least 200 people at her funeral. She was one of those people that everyone loved and we will never, ever, get over losing her.