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A young woman has revealed how she was diagnosed with incurable cancer after her smear test was delayed during lockdown.

Abi Macnamara, 34, from Swansea,  was told she was not a priority when her test was delayed in March 2020 due to Covid restrictions.

In July, her test revealed she had stage one cervical cancer, she was told ‘not to worry’ and received reassurance that it had been caught early, making it ‘highly treatable’.

But in December 2020, Abi was devastated when doctors told her that the cancer had spread and was by that time stage three. 

The cancer has since recurred twice and Abi has been told by doctors that it is now incurable. 

After being diagnosed with stage 1b cervical cancer, Abi Macnamara, 34, (pictured) underwent surgery to remove her cervix and cancerous lymph nodes

After being diagnosed with stage 1b cervical cancer, Abi Macnamara, 34, (pictured) underwent surgery to remove her cervix and cancerous lymph nodes 

Abi, from Swansea, South Wales, is undergoing chemotherapy and immunotherapy, but has been told her cancer is incurable

Abi, from Swansea, South Wales, is undergoing chemotherapy and immunotherapy, but has been told her cancer is incurable 

Abi pictured with her partner Nick in happier times. Abi has always been active and took part in half marathons before she was diagnosed

Abi pictured with her partner Nick in happier times. Abi has always been active and took part in half marathons before she was diagnosed 

Abi, who is undergoing palliative chemo and immunotherapy, said: ‘I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be where I am now if I’d had my smear test when I should have.’

‘I struggle to accept where we are and who was accountable for that. I don’t understand why screening for cancer and treatment was put on hold.’

Abi was sent a letter asking her to book a smear test in 2020. 

The test, however, was pushed back when the UK went into lockdown on 26 March and non-urgent care was postponed to free up staff and beds for the expected influx of seriously ill Covid-19 patients

After Abi’s test in July revealed stage 1b cervical cancer, she underwent a radical trachelectomy in November – which had also been delayed due to Covid – to remove her cervix and cancerous lymph nodes.

Abi said: ‘It came as a complete shock because I was really fit and healthy… I’d completed half-marathons, I’d kept myself in shape.

‘I just put my full faith in the hospital. I was told to keep calling every week to get a date.’

While the surgeon told her the operation yielded clean-cut margins – suggesting that all of the cancer had been removed – Abi’s world was turned upside down during Christmas week when she found out the cancer had spread. 

Abi received further bad news when the cancer returned in January 2023, leading to acute kidney failure

Abi received further bad news when the cancer returned in January 2023, leading to acute kidney failure

Abi said her diagnosis came as a shock because she was fit and healthy

She has continued to maintain a healthy lifestyle through treatment

Abi said her diagnosis came as a shock because she was fit and healthy

Abi underwent chemo and radiation therapy, but was given further bad news in January 2023 when the cancer returned, leading to acute kidney failure. 

She was fitted with a urostomy bag for several months and had further rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

By late August, a scan returned no evidence of disease, but around Christmas-time she started to feel unwell again. 

Abi was treated with antibiotics but she knew something wasn’t right, which led her to push for her next scan to be brought forward.

The scan showed that the cancer had recurred once again – this time in her pelvic cavity.  

Despite the delays to her treatment, Abi has not had an apology from the hospital.

She said: ‘What annoys me is that everything was shut down for Covid, but now everyone is living their normal lives and I’ve got cancer. It shouldn’t have happened.

‘They never once said sorry. The nurses have all been fantastic, but the manner in which the consultants speak to you makes you feel like they don’t have time for you.

Abi refuses to be told her prognosis and is determined to remain as positive as possible for as long as she can

Abi refuses to be told her prognosis and is determined to remain as positive as possible for as long as she can

Her positive mindset is reinforced by her belief that some of life's biggest challenges can turn out to be the greatest teachers

Her positive mindset is reinforced by her belief that some of life’s biggest challenges can turn out to be the greatest teachers 

‘When they tell you too, it’s such a massive thing for you.

‘I get that they deal with this every day, but you’re treated like you’re on a conveyor belt. There’s just a lack of humanity about it all.

‘I think there’s been a big surge of cancer patients and they can’t keep up with the demand.’

Abi refuses to be told her prognosis and while she has now restarted chemotherapy treatment, she hopes to explore other alternatives abroad.

She has continued to maintain a healthy lifestyle to give herself the best chance of responding well to treatment.

She said: ‘I don’t want it, I don’t want to become it. I want to be as positive as I can be for as long as I can be.

‘I’m not burying my head in the sand, it’s a very serious situation I’m facing.

‘But your biggest challenges in life can be the biggest teacher. If I could turn back the clock, I would 100% do things differently, but I can’t, I just have to get on with it.’

While Abi has restarted chemotherapy, she is also keen to explore alternative treatments abroad

While Abi has restarted chemotherapy, she is also keen to explore alternative treatments abroad

WHAT IS CERVICAL CANCER?

Cervical cancer affects the lining of the lower part of womb.

The most common symptom is unusual bleeding, such as between periods, during sex or after the menopause, but other signs can include:

  • Pain during sex
  • Vaginal discharge that smells 
  • Pain in the pelvis

Causes can include:

  • Age – more than half of sufferers are under 45
  • HPV infection – which affects most people at some point in their lives
  • Smoking – responsible for 21 per cent of cases
  • Contraceptive pill – linked to 10 per cent of cases
  • Having children
  • Family history of cervical or other types of cancer, like vagina

Source: Cancer Research UK 

With regards to the delay with surgery that Abi experienced, a spokesman for Swansea Bay University Health Board said: ‘We are very sorry to hear of Ms Macnamara’s concerns.

‘While the health board strives to provide the highest standard of care the pandemic posed significant and well-documented challenges to NHS services across the UK.

‘We have not received a formal complaint from Ms Macnamara so have not had the opportunity to carry out a thorough review.

‘However we would welcome a direct conversation so we can discuss her concerns with her in detail.’

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This post first appeared on Daily mail

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