Family's heartbreak as Belfast mum Janet Bowers waits one year for cancer treatment
A Belfast woman has said her mother has been treated like "an animal" after she has been left waiting for almost a year for her cancer treatment.
Janet Bowers (49) had been suffering mild discomfort for the past two years when she decided to visit her doctor after an escalation in the pain left her unable to cope any more.
It was at this point that her daughter, Taylor (24), said the family have had to endure the "nightmare" scenario of navigating the crisis-hit National Health Service.
Speaking on her mum's 49th birthday yesterday, Taylor said: "It is awful, we didn't know what to do. We were just watching our mum in agony.
"She went to the doctor last year in September. At that point, the doctor referred her to the Ulster Hospital. In October, the hospital diagnosed her intestines as being inflamed.
"A few weeks later, my mum had to be rushed to A&E and at the time, they said it was a pulled muscle.
"If they had taken an X-ray that night, she would have been diagnosed with the cancer much earlier. I think because A&E is so busy, they are just wanting to get you in and out."
A further seven-hour wait in the A&E department of the Ulster Hospital followed in December 2018, at which time Janet received a number of tests. In January this year, the grandmother-of-two was given the stark news that she had a sarcoma cancer.
Treatment with chemotherapy did not happen due to the progression of the tumour now being dangerously close to Janet's spine and ribs.
Taylor said the only option at this point is an invasive and risky operation in London.
She said: "In July, they did a biopsy and said they couldn't do any treatment. Scans got sent over to Birmingham. My mum got a phone call just two Sundays ago and they said, 'We want Janet over and she is going to get her operation'.
"I booked the week off work and me and mum went over to the Royal Brompton Hospital, thinking she would be getting the operation. Instead the consultant advised they needed to assess her first and get a date for all three surgeons to be able to carry out the operation.
"She has now been waiting in the hospital for 17 days. It is killing us not having her here. We would love to be there with her, but we obviously have to work as well.
"It is devastating her two grand-kids not to be seeing their nanny. Our mum hasn't been able to hold them for the past two years as a result of how much pain she has been in.
"There is a risk she might remain in the hospital over Christmas. Even if they do the operation now, she will be there over Christmas for her recovery. We lost our dad seven years ago to suicide. This would be the first Christmas with both parents not being here.
"She is just fed up. She has stayed strong for so long, but now she is starting to give up due to the pain she is in. The tumour is a big lump on her back. It has grown since she first got diagnosed. It has destroyed two of her ribs and there is a bit on her spine, meaning they have to remove pieces of her spine during the surgery."
For the family, the stress of waiting for treatment has led to older sister, Lauren (25), posting a public message on Facebook on her mum's birthday, urging an improvement in the NHS service.
Taylor explains that the family just want their "bubbly mum" back. She said: "I just feel like my mum has been completely neglected.
"The consultant has previously told us that it was inhumane for her to be in this pain.
"It will be seven to 10 days in hospital if everything goes well and six to eight weeks at home - if she is even able to fly home.
"She might have radiotherapy after that and they have told her this cancer is likely to come back in a few years even after having the treatment."