Northern Ireland news

Antrim woman (51) with rare cancer who missed out on review appointment due to Covid pandemic 'feels let down'

Sharon Ellis, from Antrim town, is suffering from a rare form of ovarian cancer

THE family of a woman with cancer who missed out on a review appointment due to the Covid pandemic have said she feels "let down".

Sharon Ellis (51), from Antrim town, is suffering from a rare form of ovarian cancer and relatives believe private treatment may offer her only chance of survival.

She first contracted the disease in 2017 and has twice been given the all-clear.

Last year, she was not given a regular cancer review appointment at Antrim Area Hospital due to the pandemic.

Sharon is now undergoing six rounds of chemotherapy at Belfast City Hospital in a bid to shrink the cancer tumours but doctors have told her the treatment is palliative and will not cure the disease.

Her family said she has also been told that surgery is not an option.

Sharon’s sisters, Nicola Parker, Amanda Ellis and Karen Ellis, who have helped care for her, have launched an appeal to raise money towards private treatment in London.

Amanda told The Irish News that the family appreciated the NHS was under strain but felt her sister should not be forced to get private care.

“There’s obviously a lot needs done with the NHS,” she said. “But on the flip side if you pay your taxes you shouldn’t have to pay extra for treatment.”

Nicola explained that after a cyst was discovered, her sister underwent a hysterectomy in September 2017.

A biopsy later showed that she had suffered from granulosa cell tumour of the ovary - a rare type of ovarian cancer.

She later noticed small lumps along her scar line and experienced intermittent pain but was given the all-clear in 2018.

In February this year, a CT scan showed that the ovarian cancer had returned and had spread. Her kidney function has also been affected.

Her family have been in contact with private doctors in the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.

“Sharon’s cancer is a slow, progressive, cancer,” Nicola said. “She has two large masses which have taken over her whole pelvic area which is causing a lot of other symptoms and a lot of pain.”

Any money raised will go towards Sharon’s treatment in hospital in London, including surgery on her tumours and the use of a cold cap which helps to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy.

“We’re just exploring all options for her,” Nicola said.

“It’s very difficult. She’s lost a lot of weight. Her haemoglobin is down. She had to get an iron infusion.

“The only place she goes out to is the hospital and it’s a long day for her. Last month we were there twice and it turned out to be an all day thing.

“She can’t sit because of the pressure of these two large tumours and she can’t lie either… She can’t walk very far because of the pain that she’s in.”

Amanda added: “It’s just one thing after the other.”

Nicola said that before her illness, Sharon was a gym enthusiast who was committed to healthy eating.

“Being diagnosed with cancer completely knocked her off her feet,” she said.

“She can’t get out and about at all. At the minute she has no quality of life.”

Amanda said: “You’ve got to be strong for Sharon and do what you can for her. We’ve researched the Royal Marsden and even further afield.

“She just feels like she has been let down.”

Amanda said the family would finance some of the treatment themselves “but you can appreciate that surgery isn’t cheap”.

“We appreciate that people will have lost jobs through Covid. Just any donation would be greatly appreciated.”

A spokesperson for the Northern Trust, which is responsible for Antrim area hospital, said: "During the Covid-19 pandemic, gynaecology outpatient review clinics in Antrim Area Hospital were relocated to support increased ICU accommodation.

"Due to limited space and the need to ensure that social distancing measures were observed, the number of available appointments at each gynae clinic was decreased to six red flag appointments and two review appointments.

"This resulted in a 50% decrease in review capacity and unfortunately led to a backlog of patients on the review waiting lists."

To donate to Sharon's cancer treatment visit uk.gofundme.com/f/help-sharon-get-cancer-treatment

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