“We try hard not to be bitter about her misdiagnosis”
Laura Johnston reflects on her mother Morag's experience with pancreatic cancer. Read more below.
Since November 2011, mum had been to see her GP on various occasions due to stomach and back pain, and nausea. She also experienced what she felt was a tight band around under her chest area, but the GP put this down to indigestion. In February 2012, our beautiful mum was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and her GP prescribed her insulin injections. We felt this was very unusual in someone mum’s age, however, her GP said with mum having pernicious anaemia this could happen.
For months, mum attended the diabetes specialist nurse regularly, and although she followed a strict healthy diet, her blood sugar levels remained extremely high. The nurse suggested to mum at one point that she wasn’t managing her diet properly and referred her to the dietician. However, regardless of what mum tried, nothing changed.
She lost about three stone within four months, and everyone put it down to the “diabetes”. Eventually, at one of her check-ups, the nurse couldn’t get a sugar reading because it was so high, and she called the GP in. After examining mum, he asked me to take her straight to hospital and told us both he was very concerned about her condition.
Mum was admitted to hospital on 26th June, and after various tests and examinations, on the 12th July, mum was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The specialists advised mum had two to three weeks to live. Our world turned upside down. The surgeons fitted a stent to help relieve the pressure on mum’s stomach, but sadly sepsis set in. After a critical 24 hours in HDU, mum rallied round.
We were blessed to be able to take mum home and her younger sister, our Auntie Isobel, my sisters Ann and Rosemary, my brother Peter and I cared for mum, with the help of local nurses and Marie Curie nurses.
We had a precious week of sharing memories, laughing, crying and just being together again. In the second week, mum was unresponsive and did not wake again. On the evening of Sunday, 29th July 2012, only 17 days after diagnosis, our beautiful mum passed away peacefully with us by her side.
Our lives have never been the same. Mum accepted her diagnosis with bravery and dignity and asked us not to waste our strength on being angry after she was gone. Because of this, we try hard not to be bitter about her misdiagnosis, but we can’t help wonder if things could’ve been different if mum had got the correct diagnosis in the first instance.