A young hospital worker said her friends believed she was losing weight due to an eating disorder before she was diagnosed with a “ticking time bomb” combination of cancer and a life-threatening heart condition.
Assistant practitioner Bethan Goodey regularly worked 12-hour shifts at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, lifting patients and heavy equipment, but she had dropped from a dress size 10 to a four.
The 27-year-old, whose weight fell to just 7st 5lb (47kg), said people did not believe how ill she was because of her age.
Ms Goodey, from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, was unaware at the time that she was putting a huge strain on her heart and could have gone into cardiac arrest at any moment.
Her diagnosis, of a heart condition and stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma, came in September 2019 after a routine chest X-ray for a persistent cough.
Doctors identified a 4in (10cm) cancerous tumour in her chest, which was causing fluid to build up dangerously around her heart.
Her condition was so severe that she was told not to move due to the risk of her heart failing, and was wheeled to the hospital’s cardiac unit for monitoring ahead of surgery.
She underwent six rounds of chemotherapy over seven months at West Suffolk Hospital and had heart surgery at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge before being given the all-clear in March 2020.
Ms Goodey, who is currently shielding, said: “I’m very lucky to be alive as I was walking around with a ticking time bomb inside me.
“My heart could have stopped at work or at home or driving my car.
“It’s so scary when I think how close I was to dying and I had no idea.
“If my heart had not killed me, the cancer or Covid would have got me because I had no immune system and I was putting an immense strain on my body.”
She went on: “It took five years for a diagnosis because no-one believed how ill I was because of my age.
“I would make an effort, doing my hair and make-up.
“It felt like I was not being listened to because I looked so well.
“After years of unexplained weight loss, going back and forth to the GP, each time being reassured that I would be ‘more unwell if it was anything serious’ or that my bloods would be ‘more deranged’ if it was cancer, I was finally diagnosed with the cancer.
“But, by then, it had spread and my heart was compromised because of the fluid build-up which prevented it from functioning normally.
“I was strapped to a heart monitor for over a month and I couldn’t leave my bed or do anything because any activity could have killed me.”
She had 500ml of fluid drained from her heart and was later diagnosed with cancer in her lymph nodes, back, shoulder and chest.
She said she has been told she may not be able to have children and is having counselling to come to terms with her near-death experience.
“It has taken me ages to trust my body again,” she said.
“It’s so scary knowing how close I came to dying.”
She is urging people to sign up to Cancer Research UK’s Walk All Over Cancer campaign, to get sponsored to walk 10,000 steps every day in March to support the charity’s life-saving mission.
To sign up and receive a free fundraising pack, see https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/get-involved/find-an-event/walk-all-over-cancer