Mother given 18 months to live after being misdiagnosed 13 times — makes full recovery from cancer
A mother who was given 18 months to live after doctors failed to diagnose her cancer more than a dozen times has made a miracle recovery after the first operation of its kind in the UK. Ruth McDonagh, 47, was repeatedly turned away by medics over the course of two years despite suffering from the classic symptoms of bowel cancer.
By the time the disease was diagnosed, she was told she had just 18 months left to live as a tumour in her bowel had grown so large it was almost inoperable.
Ms McDonagh’s only option was a £100,000 operation only available in the U.S. and which was certain to leave her paralysed from the waist down. But at the eleventh hour a team of British doctors trained in the American technique agreed to carry out her surgery in a 13-hour operation never before carried out in the UK.
And to her elation, when Ms McDonagh came round from the surgery she was able to wiggle her toes – meaning doctors had, against the odds, managed to save the feeling in her legs.
Ms McDonagh, who lives in Enfield, North London, with her son Brandon, 11, said: ‘I feel like I have been given a second chance at life. ‘When you’re told you have cancer the first thing you think is that you are going to die. Leaving Brandon behind was all that I could think about. Who would look after him? What would happen to him?
‘Now he tells everyone he meets that Mummy hasn’t got cancer any more, whether he knows them or not – it’s wonderful.’
Ms McDonagh’s health problems began in 2008 when she noticed blood in her stools and had difficulty going to the toilet. She went to her GP but, as her symptoms worsened, she was given varying diagnoses from doctors who claimed she had everything from IBS to pelvic inflammatory disease.
At one point, Ms McDonagh was suffering from such severe abdominal pain that she could barely walk. But she was still told go home, have hot baths and eat different foods.
When she became so ill she could no longer eat, one doctor prescribed Ms McDonagh a herbal remedy and wrote that she was ‘neurotic’ in her notes.
Even when she told medics she thought she had bowel cancer her fears were laughed off and she was told she was far too young. By the time she was eventually diagnosed, Ms McDonagh’s cancer had been missed on 13 separate occasions and two years had passed, allowing the tumour that was growing from her bowel to progress.
Following chemotherapy and radiotherapy, it was discovered the 8cm-long growth was wrapped around her tailbone – or sacrum – and the surgery to remove it was far too complicated to be performed by UK surgeons, or so she was told.
Even if Ms McDonagh were to undergo the £100,000 sacrectomy operation, which was available privately in the U.S., she would almost certainly be left paralysed. Without the operation, she was told she had a maximum of 18 months left to live.
Ms McDonagh after the 13-hour operation at Leeds General Hospital which was carried out by a team of British doctors trained in an American technique never before carried out in the UK
Ms McDonagh said: ‘I didn’t care what happened to me, I just wanted to still be around for my son. I wasn’t even angry because I was more worried about Brandon to feel anything else.
‘But they couldn’t find anyone in this country who was qualified to do the sacrectomy. Only about 50 operations are performed anywhere in the world each year.
‘The tumour had spread so far up my tailbone that no one was prepared to do it as they had never performed one like it before. It was a very complex operation and had a lot of risks. Essentially they would be cutting away at the root of my spine.
‘But even though I was told it would most likely leave me paralysed, I was desperate to find someone to do it. I started trying to raise the £100,000 to go to America myself and contacted everyone I knew.’
After months of frantic fundraising, Ms McDonagh finally received the call she had been waiting for – orthopaedic surgeon Professor Peter Giannoudis and consultant neurosurgeon Dr Jake Timothy had agreed to take on her case with another surgeon at Leeds General Infirmary.
Together the three surgeons worked for 13 hours to remove Ms McDonagh’s sacrum, her bowel, her womb and to repair damage to her kidneys. The surgery was described as being akin to a car crash in physical terms.
Ms McDonagh was also warned once more that the surgery would probably leave her without the use of the lower half of her body, but she was determined to go ahead.
She said: ‘As far as I was concerned, there was no choice to make. The surgery was my only chance of survival and I had to fight for my survival.’
Before the op, kind well-wishers at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield paid for Ruth to take her son to Euro Disney for what she feared might be the last quality time she would ever spend with him.
Then, on March 12 this year, Ms McDonagh awoke from the operation. She said: ‘When I woke up from the surgery I was completely elated. I could wiggle my toes and I could feel my legs so I knew that meant they’d been able to save one of my nerves.
‘I felt terrible, but I’d never been happier. The doctors explained to me that the surgery had gone better than they had expected, that they’d removed all the tumour and been able to spare the feeling in my legs. I couldn’t thank them enough.’
Ms McDonagh spent the next two weeks in hospital and then returned home to Enfield where she is learning to walk again on crutches.
Doctors cannot say if the cancer will ever return but as far as she is concerned, her recovery is miraculous. Ms McDonagh said: ‘I was terminal. I was written off as dead. I can’t believe I’ve been given another chance to go on living and being a mother to my son.
‘I am angry at the fact it took so long to diagnose me. I think the sad fact is that the NHS is under too much strain financially and the doctors were reluctant to take me seriously because of my age. ‘But if they had given me a blood test or a colonoscopy four years ago I would have saved them thousands.
‘What I would say to anyone is that they need to be aware of their own bodies and if you know something isn’t right – even if a doctor is telling you that you are fine – get a second opinion and be persistent.
‘Having said that, the surgeons that worked on me were incredible and the care I received from them was amazing. ‘They have saved my life and my mobility. I can get from A to B and I still have my independence so I don’t mind if I wobble a little, I get there in the end.
‘I have to take everything one day at a time and no one can tell me what the future holds but I’m so grateful that I’m still here. ‘Most importantly, I’m still here for Brandon and that’s what matters.’
Furore in Britain over EU’s new ‘green’ fuel drive that will force 4p a litre rise in petrol [gasoline]
Bureaucrats in Europe could push the price of petrol up in the UK by 4p a litre by dictating ‘green’ fuel targets to member states.
Under tough energy targets in a Brussels directive, 10 per cent of the energy used in the transport sector across the EU will have to come from biofuels or other ‘renewable’ energy sources rather than fossil fuel by 2020.
But campaigners argue that the green initiative will just penalise motorists and taxpayers in Britain who are already struggling to keep their head above water in the current economic climate.
Peter Carroll, of the FairFuel UK campaign, said: ‘The absolute priority at the moment is getting petrol and diesel to an affordable level and anything that stops that from happening should be resisted.
‘Many of our supporters have the environment at heart but before we can concentrate and invest in more environmentally friendly forms of transport, such as electric cars and better public transport, we need a secure economy that is stable and growing.
‘Environmentalists do themselves a lot of harm by beating motorists with a stick on price. All this does is harm the hardworking individual without bringing in any realistic form of long-term change.
‘How does this help the nurse who needs to dig in to her own pocket to pay for petrol to visit patients in rural areas because her fuel allowance won’t cover the cost of the journeys? It’s very naive.’
He added that as well as campaigning against the EU directive, FairFuel UK is also calling for the government to scrap the planned 3p price hike in August.
Mr Carroll argued that the level of duty on fuel in the UK should be brought down to the significantly lower level of other European countries – around 26 per cent – before any further costs are landed on motorists.
He added: ‘Adding 3p per litre when the economy is on its knees, families are struggling to survive week by week and UK businesses are struggling borders on economic madness.
‘A cut of just 2.5p per litre would boost growth by a much needed 0.33 per cent, create 175,000 jobs and crucially not harm Treasury revenues – the tax take on the stimulated economic growth compensates for the loss of Fuel Duty.’
Biofuels come from a range of sources including plants, fermented organic matter, bacteria and bio waste and it is considered to be the most viable way of cutting down greenhouse gas emissions. But the process is also very costly.
A Brussels directive in 2003 first insisted that 5.75 per cent of the energy used in the transport sector across the 27 EU member states should be ‘green’ by 2010 but it then increased the target again in 2009 to 10 per cent by 2020.
EU officials hope the tough targets will reduce dependency on oil-based fuels and help encourage an increased use of more environmentally friendly fuels. But critics still argue now is not the time to be putting more pressure on EU member states that are trying to revive their economies.
The move was described as ‘insanity’ by a leading campaigner for cheaper fuel Tory MP Robert Halfon. He told the Daily Express: ‘This is insanity. This stupid directive would force the Treasury to put another 3 or 4p on a litre.
‘The Government is trying to keep fuel duty down, but now we have these European bureaucrats meddling to force up the price. Frankly, the Government should tell them where to go. ‘How can we get our economy moving again when Brussels keeps inventing new taxes to destroy growth and jobs?’
Is Britain a racist nation? One in three Brits ‘admits to being racist’, according to poll
Human beings have constructed caregories of people from time immemorial. The only wonder is that so many have now been browbeaten into denying it
A third of Brits admit they are racist, a shock report has revealed. The worrying figure emerged in a poll of 2,000 adults who were asked to honestly express their feelings about foreign nationals living and working in this country.
One in three admitted regularly making comments or being involved in discussions which could be considered racist.
Additionally, more than one in ten admitted they had been accused of being a racist by someone close to them. And almost 40 per cent confessed to using the phrase ‘I’m not a racist, but …’ when discussing race issues facing Britain today.
Alarmingly, many felt their animosity towards foreigners was passed down by previous generations.
But the country’s immigration policy also emerged as a trigger for emotions which could be considered racist.
The true extent of the racist undercurrent within the country was revealed in a nationally representative study carried out by OnePoll in which 88 per cent of the respondents classed themselves as ‘White British’.
Anti-racism campaign group Hope Not Hate, said they were not ‘surprised’ by the poll results. ‘These are very disappointing findings. The positive way to look at it the majority of Britain’s shun this behaviour. ‘It equally shows there is a long to way to go to tackle prejudice in sections of society. It’s disappointing – we know there is a long way to go and this poll merely underlines the fact.’
Yesterday a OnePoll spokesman said: ‘What constitutes being racist will always be a contentious issue. ‘What one person deems inappropriate the next person may not. ‘The opinions and beliefs of our parents and grandparents are bound to be a factor in the way we address other people regardless of their nationality or skin colour. ‘Likewise life experience and cultures we have grown-up in are inevitably going to influence our beliefs and the language we use.
Other factors which many feel stir up anti-foreign emotions was the environment or neighbourhood people currently live in. Life experience was also hailed as a reason.
The study also found one in five accept the fact people around them make disparaging remarks about different ethnic groups – and are not bothered by it.
Age-wise, the over 55s were found to have the biggest chips on their shoulders, with the 18-24 age range close behind.
The younger of these two brackets were also more likely to admit making racist comments or partaking in behaviour which could be deemed racist.
The Government’s immigration policy was slammed by many of those who took part in the study. Seventy one per cent said they felt the ‘open doors’ approach to foreign nationals was leading to an increase in racist feelings.
As many as one in six demanded Britain close its doors to anyone who is not a UK national. Just over four out of ten said they felt a strict number of immigrants should be allowed in at any one time.
A OnePoll spokesman added: ‘It’s alarming that so many people are just accepting the racist behaviour around them. ‘Nobody should feel an outsider in their own community.
‘The findings did show that immigration policy was fuelling the fire for racist behaviour amongst some adults. ‘But immigration and race are two separate issues although these findings show that many believe one is a consequence of another.’
Climbdown on secret justice in Britain
Justice Secretary to allow judges, not politicians, to decide whether a civil case should be kept out of the public eye
Plans for a vast extension of the ‘secret justice’ system will be scrapped today. Ministers have been forced to back down following a massive outcry from civil rights groups, MPs and lawyers.
Moves to hold ‘sensitive’ inquests behind closed doors are being dropped altogether. And in civil cases judges, not politicians, will now have the power to approve or refuse a request for a secret hearing.
Writing in the Mail today, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke admits the original plans were too broad. ‘No evidence that can currently be heard in open court will be put into closed proceedings,’ he adds.
His retreat on inquests was welcomed by the Royal British Legion and campaigners for the rights of families in coroners’ courts.
But civil liberties groups said the concessions did not go far enough and the ‘odious’ Justice and Security Bill should be scrapped completely. They warned the legislation, to be published today, would still put ministers above the law, stopping the public learning about allegations of British complicity in rendition and torture.
Closed hearings are used in tiny numbers of immigration and deportation cases, but the Government had initially proposed employing them wherever ministers felt the public interest was threatened.
Defendants or claimants are not allowed to attend, know or challenge the case against them and must be represented by a security-cleared special advocate, rather than their lawyer. Critics said the proposals were a fundamental breach of the traditional principles of open justice, with MI5 and MI6 dictating the agenda.
Spy chiefs have been embarrassed by terror suspects making civil claims, which were settled out of court to stop sensitive intelligence material being discussed in public.
But even the elite group of lawyers involved in ‘secret justice’ hearings attacked the plans, casting doubt on whether the shakeup was needed to protect Britain’s intelligence relationship with the US.
The majority of security-cleared special advocates – 57 out of 69 – insisted proposals to allow secret hearings across any civil court case or inquest hearing were ‘a departure from the foundational principle of natural justice’.
Critics also feared the new rules could be used to cover up potentially embarrassing incidents, such as police shootings.
In an extraordinary letter to fellow members of the National Security Council last month, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg insisted the security services ‘cannot be allowed to ride roughshod over the principle of open justice’.
Since then, the coalition parties have been embroiled in bitter negotiations over the legislation.
The unveiling of the bill had to be shelved last week thanks to a row over whether to exclude inquests, which the Home Office and security services wanted retained. The final version will introduce closed material procedures in ‘very limited’ circumstances in civil cases.
A judge, not a minister, will have the final decision on whether proceedings should go into closed session and only in exceptional cases involving spies and national security. Only evidence that would otherwise not have seen the light of day, Mr Clarke argues, will be heard by a judge in private. He said vast sums of taxpayers’ cash have been used to settle claims where sensitive material was central to the Government’s case but could not be used in court.
Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty, a rights group that has played a key role in the campaign against the bill, said the concessions should not obscure the ‘odious’ nature of a policy that was ‘such a sweeping affront to centuries of justice’.
But Chris Simpkins of the Royal British Legion said: ‘We have always said secret inquests would compound the grief of bereaved Armed Forces families. They deserve a process that fully includes them.’
Mr Clegg played a pivotal role in watering down the legislation and a senior Lib Dem source said last night: ‘As a result of the Deputy Prime Minister’s intervention, these proceedings are restricted to exceptional cases of national security; a judge not ministers decide; and, crucially, these measures will never apply to inquests.’
The draft proposals had called for closed material proceedings to supplant the system of public interest immunity certificates. But now judges will consider whether a case could be heard using such a certificate – which allows evidence to be kept back – before allowing a secret hearing.
Britain’s National Heallth Service removes ‘Dad’ from parenting leaflets to avoid upsetting same-sex couples
“The NHS has removed the term “dad” from its childbirth guide after receiving a complaint that the leaflet was excluding same-sex parents.
The Ready Steady Baby pamphlet, which offers advice on pregnancy and the first year of parenthood, has been given to mums and dads-to-be for the last 14 years.
However, the 220-page guide will no longer refer to fathers after a complaint that claimed it was “not inclusive of people in same-sex relationships”.
Instead, the leaflet will use the non-gender specific term “partner” in its latest revision.
Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust, said the NHS was wrong to change the language in the booklet. He said: “The NHS should not be squandering tax payers’ money to advance the cause of a minority interest group.
“No matter how much effort is made to present positive images of families headed by same-sex couples, the fact remains it takes a man and a woman to create a child.”