‘Doctors said my daughter had IBS – in fact, it was bowel cancer’: Heartbroken mother on losing her 28-year-old to the disease
No scans until too late. Scans cost money. She would still be alive were she my daughter. I always pay for scans at the drop of a hat
A seemingly fit and healthy 28-year-old died from bowel cancer after doctors repeatedly told her she was suffering from a harmless digestive complaint.
Nursery worker Holly Slater visited her doctor several times over an 18 month period, yet doctors did did not recognise her symptoms – which included bloating and abdominal cramps – and mistook the beginnings of bowel cancer for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The cancer eventually spread to her lungs, bones and liver and she died in February this year.
To this day, there is no clear reason why she succumbed to the disease – Holly was fit and healthy and there was no family history of the disease.
Her mother Lynne, 59, says outdated views to the disease cost her daughter’s life – and is calling for doctors not to ignore symptoms in young people.
Because Holly had been diagnosed with IBS, she was prescribed medicine to ease her stomach cramps and laxatives to relieve her constipation.
While they were very effective in improving her quality of life, they were also masking the symptoms of a far more deadly problem.
Bowel cancer is traditionally associated with old age, with nearly 75 per cent of cases affecting those aged over 65.
But over the past decade, the number of cases in those aged under 30 has shot up by an alarming 120 per cent.
Experts do not fully understand why this is happening, but it is thought changing diets, with increased fatty and high-calorie meals, are fuelling the rise, although many sufferers, such as Holly, have lived a healthy lifestyle.
Holly started noticing a change in her digestion in August 2011, then aged 26. She started to suffer mild bouts of abdominal pain and constipation.
‘The doctor diagnosed her with IBS and at that point, apart from being a bit uncomfortable, it wasn’t really causing any day-to-day problems,’ says Lynne. ‘It wasn’t until the beginning of 2012 that the symptoms worsened.’
As time went on, Holly developed frequent trapped wind, constipation and occasionally loose motions. ‘But there was no bleeding at all so cancer didn’t cross her or the doctor’s mind.’
The bouts of discomfort were also sporadic, which made the symptoms fit perfectly with her IBS diagnosis.
In the first few months of 2012, Holly visited her doctor repeatedly after she began to vomit. She was sent for a raft of blood and urine tests, yet results came back entirely normal.
Towards the end of March the pain and episodes of vomiting became more frequent, but Holly had booked a holiday in Florida with her boyfriend Jeff and she was keen to enjoy her herself.
‘She thought the stress of planning the holiday had made the IBS worse,’ remembers Lynne. ‘Her dog had also been diagnosed with cancer which caused more stress.’
On her return, Holly’s condition continued to deteriorate and in the week before she was hospitalised at St Mary’s Hospital, on the Isle of Wight, she visited her GP four times.
Doctors prescribed her more laxatives and suppositories but by then, she was vomiting almost continually in spite of taking anti-nausea tablets.
A further set of blood tests continued to tell her consultants that she was otherwise well, with no cancer antibodies.
Eventually she was referred for an ultrasound, but by the time the appointment arrived in April 2012, she had already been admitted to hospital.
At St Mary’s Hospital, on the Isle of Wight, she was promptly X-rayed and given pain relief. The X-ray showed that there was an abnormality, but doctors could not ascertain what was wrong.
‘The doctors thought she may have another inflammatory bowel condition called Crohn’s Disease and she was given antibiotics,’ says Lynne.
‘Even up until this point she suffered with none of the classic symptoms of bowel cancer such as bloody stools and diarrhoea.’
Doctors then performed a colonoscopy which showed a tumour in her colon. She was immediately operated on and surgeons removed half her colon, surrounding lymph nodes and fitted a colostomy bag.
In September a CT scan showed that there was no remaining cancer.
‘She was looking forward to getting back to work and getting back to normality,’ adds Lynne.
But tragically, after another scan in January this year, lesions were found in her lungs.
She was sent for another scan which revealed that the cancer had spread to her lungs, liver, to her reproductive organs and her bones.
On February 14 Holly was admitted to hospital and given antibiotics and oxygen in a bid to relieve a chest infection she had developed. She was also given a session of palliative chemotherapy.
The antibiotics did not work and she was moved to a hospice five days later.
‘She died on the following morning very peacefully in her sleep,’ says Lynne. ‘I was able to stay with her all night and for that I will be eternally gratefully to the hospice.
British schools ‘ripping out playground equipment to avoid being sued’ after millions of pounds are paid to pupils who hurt
Swings and slides are being removed from Britain’s school playgrounds because of the massive rise in compensation claims when children suffer minor injuries.
Claims have become so common that education authorities face mounting bills even when children get hurt while breaking school rules by climbing walls or trees.
The compensation culture is being fuelled by lawyers offering parents no-win no-fee deals, it is claimed, with some firms even setting up telephone hotlines to encourage parents to sue.
Schools are often advised to settle out of court without contesting claims up to £12,000 just to save on legal costs. More than £4million was also paid out to staff last year.
Jonathan Isaby, political director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, told the Sunday Express: ‘There is no doubt that the compensation culture has got completely out of hand. People need to accept that sometimes accidents do happen and no one is to blame.’
Figures revealed parents with pupils at schools in Lancashire have been paid almost £800,000 in compensation for their children’s injuries in the past five years.
The payouts include a child who got more than £15,000 after falling off a wall and another who collected £6,000 after cutting a leg while sliding down a banister.
In Essex, school bosses have paid out £227,137 in compensation and legal costs in the past five years. A child who tripped down a step cost the council £30,544 and a pupil got £24,650 after falling off a climbing frame.
And in Kent, the county council has paid out £700,000 in compensation to children injured in school accidents since 2008. The biggest payout to a pupil was £80,000.
To win compensation an injured child has to prove there has been a breach of the duty of care owed to them by the school.
If the child has suffered as a result of negligence they can claim compensation for their suffering and funding for any medical treatment.
Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘Schools become so risk-conscious they no longer present children with challenges and they are wrapped up in cotton wool.’
The National Union of Teachers defended its members for seeking compensation saying many claims result from premises or equipment which have ‘not been sufficiently well maintained’.
Beetroot juice ‘helps lower blood pressure’: A glass a day can reduce it by 7%, say researchers (?)
There is no warrant that the small drop in BP observed will have ANY therapeutic effect
Drinking beetroot juice every day could help to lower blood pressure, say researchers. They found a dose of eight ounces – around one cup – may help people with high blood pressure, cutting their readings by about 7 per cent.
Tests suggest the effect is produced by beetroot’s naturally high levels of nitrate. High concentrations of nitrate are also found in celery, cabbage and other leafy green vegetables such as spinach and some lettuce.
Eating high-nitrate foods triggers a series of chemical reactions in the blood, which can increase oxygen in areas of the body which are specifically lacking supply.
The beetroot juice used in the study contained about 0.2g of dietary nitrate, levels found in a large bowl of lettuce or two beetroots.
Amrita Ahluwalia, lead author of the study and a professor of vascular pharmacology at The Barts and The London Medical School, said: ‘We were surprised by how little nitrate was needed to see such a large effect.
‘Our hope is that increasing one’s intake of vegetables with a high dietary nitrate content, such as green leafy vegetables or beetroot, might be a lifestyle approach that one could easily employ to improve cardiovascular health.’
Beetroot juice is found in most health food shops and usually costs around £2 a bottle.
An estimated 16million people in the UK have high blood pressure, including a third who do not know they have it, and it is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.
Changes in lifestyle, such as cutting down salt and alcohol and taking more exercise, may control blood pressure and there are a number of drug treatments available.
A high blood pressure reading is one that exceeds 140/90 mm Hg. The first figure, the systolic pressure, corresponds to the ‘surge’ that occurs with each heart beat.
The latest study recruited eight women and seven men with systolic pressure between 140 and 159 mm Hg who were not taking blood pressure drugs.
The participants drank 250ml of beetroot juice or water containing a low amount of nitrate, and had their blood pressure monitored for 24 hours, says a report in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.
Compared with those drinking water, people having beetroot juice cut their systolic pressure by about 10 mm Hg.
The effect was most pronounced three to six hours after drinking the juice but still present even 24 hours later.
Previous research has shown beetroot increases stamina, and can boost blood supply to vital areas of the brain.
An end to zombie politics needed
When Tony Blair signed up for Kyoto, it was a cost-free policy for the UK as it coincided with the “dash for gas” which he inherited. But our adherence to Kyoto targets isn’t cost-free any more. Now we are subsidising wind-farms, solar energy etc so that the UK average energy bill has risen by 18% for this reason alone.
On 8 February, Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading posted a graph, subsequently globally anthologised, drawing attention to the mismatch between climate change models and some seventeen years without measurable climate warming. To be fair, the meaning of the graph is contested, with diehard proponents of classical “Anthropogenic Global Warming” (AGW) spluttering that it is premature to make much of the statistical meaning of the recent figures; or that the warming is taking place under the sea where we can’t measure it.
This is weak stuff: contrary to the campaigners the science turns out to be far from settled; indeed by the tests climate practitioners have set themselves their predictions are falling apart. Honest scientists are now revisiting their theories and models.
So let the Prime Minister launch a Royal Commission to revisit the evidence, modelling and consequent policy. The composition of such a Commission would have to be carefully chosen to ensure balance. The public interest needs statisticians and scientists from outside the hermetic world of “climate science” to challenge insiders robustly and in full view. Also in the interests of transparency, the DPP should seize data such as papers from the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia for examination by forensic statisticians. The Commission should be given ample time to get it right – five years at least.
Over the period of its review the Government should suspend surcharges on energy bills, subsidies to energy suppliers or technologies, and generally the obligations of the Secretary of State for Energy under the Climate Change Act (2008).
We may expect the Liberal Democrats to object, but they may not want to stand in the way of a good-faith re-examination of the evidence. If they do, they have handed the Tories a priceless wedge issue for 2015.
Margaret Thatcher was a “Daddy’s girl”
Which goes a long way towards explaining her self-assurance
The four years that separated Margaret Hilda Roberts from her elder sister, Muriel, are perhaps one reason why, despite Margaret’s public protestations, they were never close.
Muriel was closer to her mother, Beatie. By contrast, and it is perhaps the best-known fact about Margaret’s early life, the younger daughter was her father Alf’s favourite, and he hers.
Perhaps Alf had wanted a son. Certainly, the kind of attention he devoted to her and the values and ambitions he inculcated in her would suggest so.
Much has been made by practitioners of psychobabble of Margaret’s attitude towards Beatie. They draw attention to the daughter’s refusal to say anything notable about her mother at all.
Yet the assumption that this wall of near-silence concealed hostility seems wide of the mark. Margaret Thatcher would never be very interested in people’s personalities as such, only in their actions – and specifically those of their actions that directly concerned her.
When it came to psychology, on the individual level at least, she was profoundly unimaginative, and this applied in respect of her family just as much as it did in respect of her colleagues.
The truth is that when she was asked what she thought of Beatie, she simply did not know, for the very good reason that the two had no common tastes or interests, at least beyond Alf Roberts’s welfare.
It has been suggested that Beatie starved her younger daughter of affection and that this explains Margaret’s apparent chilliness. But there is no evidence that this is so, nor did Margaret’s later private conversation ever hint at such a thing.
It is, indeed, most unlikely. Beatie was a kind and sweet-natured person, with a strong sense of duty to her husband and both her daughters. Margaret did not dislike her mother. Rather, she pitied her.
Beatie’s life seemed to her daughter an example of everything she intended in later life to avoid. `Drudgery’ was the word that most often came to her lips to describe it; `poor mother’ she murmured in unguarded moments, whenever the subject was raised.
And what of her father? Alf Roberts was tall, blond and blue-eyed and had a certain presence. Born poor, yet intellectually precocious, he had once wanted to be a teacher, but his family could not raise the money to keep him long enough at school.
So he had to take jobs where he could find them. Being extremely industrious – and very thrifty – he saved enough money to buy that now celebrated Grantham grocery store. Margaret was born in the flat above the shop.
More than any other British premier, she was made what she was by her early life, and she knew it. She never forgot her origins and often alluded to episodes in her childhood.
The deeper truth, however, was that she reacted against her background more than she reflected it. Once she had the chance to leave, she rarely returned. She escaped to a better life than the one she knew as a child – and in her heart she rejoiced in it.
One of the qualities that made escape possible was her extraordinary strength of purpose. From the time she went to school to the time she left Downing Street, people were astonished at Margaret’s unrelenting drive to impose her will, to attain her goals. She learned this from her father.
The key to his philosophy, and later hers, was hard work. For both of them, work was a `virtue’, not just a means to an end. Alf’s motto was `never waste a minute’ and he applied it to everyone around him.
From an early age, Margaret was weighing out goods in the shop, taking orders from customers and accompanying her father on deliveries.
The store was open from early morning until late into the evening; to ensure the business never faltered, Alf and Beatie always took separate holidays, albeit usually in the same place, Skegness.
The broader outlook she gained from Grantham and from her father was a strong sense of individualism. She remembered vividly his scorn for following the crowd. `Don’t do something just because everyone else does’ he imbued in her. Think for yourself. Rely on yourself. Strive harder than anyone else. And make no excuses.
Yet, for all that she admired him and was inspired by him, life under his roof could be remarkably grim. Alf Roberts may have had a healthy income and high status in the town – he served as a councillor for 25 years, including a term as mayor – but he was extremely mean.
The family lived in uncomfortably constricted accommodation, which could possibly be excused by the demands of living over the shop. Even the outside lavatory was not unusual at that time. But the failure to install running hot water and the meagreness and dullness of the food they ate were her father’s choice, not necessity.
Alf prided himself on selling quality produce, but the quality was enjoyed by his customers, not by his loved ones.
Conspicuous consumption was frowned upon, too, by the family’s severe brand of religion. Among Methodists like the Robertses there was a kind of competition to avoid waste.
Even the cotton used to tack up the hems of the girls’ dresses was re-used and to say that someone `lived up to the hilt’, that they spent everything they earned and more, was a deadly insult.
Mrs Thatcher later applied the same frugal philosophy in Downing Street, to a sometimes ludicrous extent. She refused to have the carpet under her desk repaired though her feet had worn a hole in it. She had a patch inserted instead.
It was widely remarked of her as an adult that she had no sense of humour. That is not strictly true – she could enjoy a joke, but unless it was obvious it had to be explained to her.
She also had a capacity for mimicry, and liked on occasion to imitate the upper-class accents of men she thought feeble.
But she distrusted frivolity and thought prolonged bouts of humour a distraction: she would cut them short by telling people to get back to serious matters.
That said, as she grew into her teens, it must have been increasingly galling to live at such close quarters with the family in such spartan conditions, with such an excess of religion and such a dearth of fun.
That is why the prospect of Oxford, rather than nearby Nottingham University, proved so attractive to her. It is why in her 20s she so quickly and so thoroughly cut herself off from Grantham and most of those she had known there.
SHE went on a scholarship to the fee-paying Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School.
A hard-working pupil, considerate and generous, she was also perhaps a bit too eager and intense, inclined to be a know-it-all, her hand always up first in class, but not so outstanding as to inspire jealousy. An inspiring science mistress, Miss Kay, was instrumental in her decision to specialise in chemistry. It was an unusual choice for a girl, but Margaret, determined not to end up like her mother, knew she wanted to pursue a career, and chemistry offered the prospect of a job in industry.
She narrowly failed on her first attempt to get into Somerville College, but then a vacancy unexpectedly arose and she went up to Oxford in October 1943. She was barely 18 and had no real idea of what to expect.
Initially, life there was thoroughly uncongenial. The college was a cold, austere place and many of the people she met seem to have been prigs who looked down on her.
Miss Roberts was regarded as a bore, and worse still a Tory bore. She was ridiculous and quite incomprehensible to those at ease with the prevailing self-satisfied, socialistic atmosphere.
Her chemistry tutor at Somerville, the Nobel-Prize-winning scientist Dorothy Hodgkin, thought her competent though uninspired. Nonetheless, Hodgkin was helpful in obtaining for her various grants – in later years Mrs Thatcher did not like to admit that she had needed them.
The truth is that without such help she would have been in some financial difficulty. She received little help from home. Her mother sent cakes, but her father, true to his principles and his prejudices, does not seem to have sent much money.
In her last two years at university, she shared lodgings with two other girls rather than living in college, and was better able to appreciate Oxford’s social life. She proved an excellent ballroom dancer.
If there were no boyfriends in the usual sense of the term, let alone any sexual liaisons, there were certainly men friends – and not surprisingly, for, though slightly plump, she was undeniably pretty.
Beyond work, the main focus of her university life was Conservative politics.
Fired by her father’s principles, she became a member of the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA) as soon as she arrived, and in her final year became its president. At home during the vacation in that last year, she made a momentous decision.
As she was holding forth on some political topic, someone remarked to her that she ought to go into Parliament. The monologue stopped, because suddenly she knew that this was indeed exactly what she wanted.
By then she was looking to a future that did not include Grantham. She was in the process of leaving her home town behind – including even, finally, her father.
Alf, for his part, campaigned and even spoke for her when she was a Tory candidate in Dartford a few years later in 1950. But her parents disapproved of Denis Thatcher, the businessman she met there, who was a divorcee. Relations cooled after her marriage to him in 1951, and Margaret Thatcher’s children barely knew their grandparents.
Alf remained proud of his daughter’s political success and was listening to her speaking on the radio when he died in 1970. Significantly, though, he left her nothing in his will. The old magic of their bond had vanished long before. She had outgrown him, and she had outgrown Grantham.
When she left, she was quick to lose her Lincolnshire accent, adopting a tone that the uncharitable described as posh. But her roots were not so readily denied.
In particular, the impact of the Methodism she grew up with remained very deep, though not perhaps in the way that might have been expected.
It did not leave her an obviously spiritual person, and she did not feel any obligation to forgive, for example, Michael Heseltine for what he had done to her. But it did make her extremely moral, by giving her a set of rules by which to live.
At home in Grantham she had as a child a religious publication called Bibby’s Annual, which had been given to her by her parents. Its improving verses remained a favourite of hers, and there was one in particular she liked to recite:
One ship drives east, and another west,
By the self-same gale that blows;
‘Tis the set of the sail, and not the gale,
That determines the way she goes.
The conclusion was clear: we make our own lives out of the circumstances that prevail; circumstances do not make us. It was pure Grantham and pure Thatcher.
Social services search mother’s home after nasty bitch reported her for ‘not doing enough when her child suffered coughing fit’
When her daughter started coughing while she shopped in Boots, Kiya Pask thought little of it, taking baby Amelia out of her pram and comforting her until she calmed down.
Little did she know that an over-zealous pharmacist was taking note and that the episode would lead to social services searching her home and investigating her ability to look after her child.
Although she has now been cleared of any wrongdoing, Miss Pask is furious at the way she was treated, saying it is unacceptable that Boots passed on her details to authorities.
Miss Pask, 20, had taken 15-month-old Amelia to the store in Skegness, Lincolnshire, on March 4 to buy over-the-counter antihistamines to help control a bronchial virus, which had hospitalised the child the day before.
But when Amelia swallowed the medicine, she started coughing and Miss Pask explained to pharmacy staff that her daughter often struggled to take medication because of her condition.
A female pharmacist, however, shouted that the baby needed oxygen and despite Amelia’s swift recovery, later phoned social services to say Miss Pask did not do enough to help her child and that the baby was at risk.
Ten days later, social workers arrived at Miss Pask’s home in Ingoldmells, Lincolnshire, and demanded to see Amelia, who is deaf and registered disabled with a chronic bronchial virus.
They then searched the house thoroughly, looking in cupboards, inside the fridge, and checked plug sockets before quizzing Miss Pask as she looked after her child for an hour.
Lincolnshire Social Services has now written to say she is no longer under investigation, but Miss Pask is furious she was ever deemed a risk to her daughter.
She said: `The pharmacist started shouting “she’s choking” and “someone get her some oxygen”. `I took her out of the pram and said to the woman: “She was in hospital yesterday with bronchitis, all she’s done is swallowed the medicine the wrong way.”
`Amelia started breathing normally and I put her back in her pram and took her home and didn’t think any more about it.’
Miss Pask said her child’s virus, which causes wheezing, cannot be treated with antibiotics but doctors have said she will grow out of it by the time she is four. She frequently has to take Amelia to hospital as a result.
Miss Pask added: `The social workers said there had been a report made about the incident in Boots pharmacy that I left my daughter laid on her back and she turned blue. I felt like I was being interrogated. I do a good job looking after my daughter.
`It’s had a massive impact on my life. I’m scared about the slightest thing my daughter does – if she does something unusual someone’s never seen before, that I am going to be reported.’
Miss Pask also claims the pharmacist breached patient confidentiality to get hold of her details.
Boots has come under fire in recent weeks after a shop assistant in Spalding, Lincolnshire, smacked a child’s bottom and called her a `naughty girl’ for knocking over a bottle of disinfectant from a shelf.
Boots defended the pharmacist who reported Miss Pask, saying she acted in Amelia’s best interests. A spokesman said: `Our pharmacists are required to apply their professional knowledge and judgment and take appropriate action if they have any concern about patients’ health and safety.
`We take patient confidentiality seriously and, having conducted a thorough investigation, are confident our pharmacist acted properly and professionally.’
Janice Spencer, assistant director for children’s services at Lincolnshire council, said: `When a referral is made to us and information suggests that a child may be at risk of harm, the responsible action is of course to make enquiries.’
‘Women don’t have mental strength for Formula 1 and would find it tiring’: Motor racing legend Sir Stirling Moss, 83, becomes embroiled in sexism row
Sir Stirling Moss has infuriated women drivers by claiming they are not mentally tough enough to compete in Formula One.
He accepts they can cope with the physical demands of handling a Formula One car, but believes the stress of a high-speed race is too much for them.
Sir Stirling, 83, who won 16 grand prix in the Fifties and Sixties, said: ‘I think they have the strength, but I don’t know if they’ve got the mental aptitude to race hard, wheel to wheel. ‘The trouble is, when you’re racing, it’s pretty tiring.
He added: ‘We had three-hour races in those days. You needed tremendous concentration. Now races are only one hour and ten minutes.
‘We’ve got some very strong and robust ladies, but, when your life is at risk, I think the strain of that in a competitive situation will tell when you’re trying to win.
‘The mental stress, I think, would be pretty difficult for a lady to deal with in a practical fashion. I just don’t think they have the aptitude to win a Formula One race.’
Only five female drivers have raced in a grand prix, the last in 1992.
But Sir Stirling’s comments were attacked by Formula One test driver Susie Wolff, 30, who said: ‘I completely disagree with him. It makes me cringe hearing that.
‘I’ve got a lot of respect for Sir Stirling and what he achieved, but I think we’re in a different generation.
‘In the days they were racing, every time they stepped into a car, they were putting their life on the line. But F1 is much more technologically advanced – it’s much safer than it was.’
The most successful female Formula One driver was Italian Lella Lombardi, who competed in 12 races in the 1970s and became the only woman to finish on the championship scoreboard when she earned half a point by coming sixth at the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix.
I imagine that race driving uses a lot of old hunting reflexes so men should have an inborn advantage there.