A 34-year-old mum has been diagnosed with stage four cancer – months after a scan to assess swelling in her throat was cancelled due to Covid-19.
Toni Cunnington first went to A&E in February after her noticing her lips had gone blue and that her throat was inflamed.
She was referred to hospital, where doctors identified a cyst and booked an ultrasound for March 23.
However, that scan was cancelled along with all other ‘non-emergency’ appointments as the national coronavirus lockdown began.
It wasn’t until September that the swelling worsened and Toni returned to A&E, which is when doctors identified stage four lymphoma.
She said: “It’s so unfair. A lot of cancer patients I know have suffered because Covid has caused so much stress to the NHS.”
After visiting A&E Toni, who’s from Leeds, West Yorks., was referred to the ear, nose and throat department at St James’ Hospital.
She then received a call from the original doctor who cancelled her scan in March, who apologised profusely.
The mum of four said: “From that point I knew I had cancer.”
She had her Lymph nodes removed and less than a week later Toni received the dreaded phone call confirming she had stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Toni said: “Waiting was the worst thing because everyone around you doesn’t want it to be that but I could just tell it was cancer.
“I called every day to speak to the doctor, I wanted results, I wanted things to go quicker and a friend even offered to pay for me to go privately.
“Luckily Lymphoma is a slow growing cancer but I just had to wait.”
Toni said she doesn’t want what has happened to her to paint the NHS in a negative light.
The service saved her son’s life eight years ago after he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia at just 15 months old.
She added: “My mum is a nurse and the NHS saved my son’s life so I feel like I can’t be angry.
“But the human part of me can’t help but be angry when cancer is involved and it feels like a Covid patient is more important than me.”
Toni had to wait initially to begin her chemotherapy as she was too unwell but on November 11 she began her six months of treatment.
She will have a scan after two months to see if it’s working as the cancer has also spread to her lungs and partially paralysed her left hand.
Toni said: “When my chemo started I cheered a bit.
“I was like ‘yes it’s started’ because I honestly thought the news of the second lockdown would cancel that aswell.”
Dr Phil Wood, Chief Medical Officer, Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust, said: “We are very sympathetic to Ms Cunnington’s situation.
“We are pleased she is now receiving the appropriate treatment and care, and wish her the very best.
“At the time of Ms Cunnington’s outpatient appointment in March, we regrettably had to make difficult decisions – like other NHS hospitals – to suspend all non-urgent appointments due to the pandemic.
“When our teams became aware of Ms Cunnington’s further symptoms, they responded quickly with a follow up plan of care.”
Last week Toni shaved her head to donate her hair to the Little Princess Trust to give a young girl suffering with cancer the opportunity for a wig.
The money she raises in donations will go to The Candlelighters Trust which was the charity that got Toni and son Jacob through his treatment.
Donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tonicunnington2020?fbclid=IwAR1L6iCZo7vnKXvxJr48SlNutKwt-6DZrCG7rHmm07vIvkDYpOs_pKXVRvc