When she visited her GP complaining of stomach pain and bloating, Kayleigh Donnelly was sent home with reassurances that she just had tummy trouble.
But as her symptoms failed to subside, her mother knew something was seriously wrong with her daughter. And she was right.
At just 13 years old, Kayleigh had developed ovarian cancer – one of the youngest cases ever diagnosed – and was just days from death.
It was only when she was taken to A&E that doctors finally discovered a 12-inch tumour weighing a staggering 7lb. The cancer had already spread to her liver, spleen, bowel and pelvis.
Her mother Lorraine, 38, said: ‘The doctors told me that if I hadn’t taken her to A&E when I did then she wouldn’t be here today.’ After several operations and chemotherapy, Kayleigh is in remission from the disease, which usually affects women in their 50s.
Mrs Donnelly, from Lancaster, said: ‘We feel lucky that she has survived, but she has been incredibly unlucky to get such a rare cancer like this.’
Kayleigh, who has six brothers and sisters, started developing symptoms in January 2016. Mrs Donnelly said: ‘She hadn’t been to the toilet in weeks and she was feeling poorly. So I took her to the doctor who said she was constipated and gave us some laxatives to take home.
‘But they didn’t make any difference at all. So I went back to the doctor another four times, and rang up five times too over the next four weeks. And each time I was told the same thing – just to give her laxatives as she was constipated.’
Kayleigh’s doctor finally referred her to the Queen Victoria Centre in Morecambe for a scan. But when she arrived, hospital staff said they didn’t carry out scans for constipation and she was sent home again. The next day – two months after first visiting the GP, Kayleigh’s condition worsened and her mother took her to the A&E at Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
‘She was constantly being sick and her stomach was getting bigger. Her skin was waxy and pale. I knew that something was really wrong with her,’ she said.
Kayleigh said: ‘I felt so ill, I didn’t really know what was going on. But my mum was crying her eyes out.’
She now has check ups every month after finishing her chemotherapy in August.
Dr David Walker, Medical Director at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, apologised on behalf of the Trust for any distress to Kayleigh and her family and said an investigation was being carried out.