A BRIDLINGTON pensioner was told she had terminal cancer by letter – two years after her doctor knew she had the disease.
June Bishop, 79, had been receiving treatment for gall stones at Scarborough Hospital, so it was not a complete surprise when a letter from the hospital came through the door.
But she was in for a massive shock when she opened it to see that she had been diagnosed with chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia.
Mrs Bishop says she had never been told about the diagnosis by her specialist or her GP in Bridlington, whom she later found out had known about her condition for two years. Health chiefs have now apologised to her.
Mrs Bishop, of Marshall Avenue, said: “To say I was shocked when I read that I had chronic leukaemia is an understatement!
“I was just sat on my sofa when I opened the letter and was completely unprepared when I saw it started with the words ‘diagnosis: chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia’.
“I rang both my doctor and my specialist, but the specialist made out that I had already been told about the diagnosis, but I definitely hadn’t.
“It’s not something you forget is it? Being told that you have leukaemia isn’t something that just goes over your head!” Chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia is a rare form of blood cancer and accounts for only a small percentage of all leukaemias.
Around 300 people are diagnosed with it each year and it can be treated with chemotherapy, but usually only with moderate success.
Mrs Bishop is not currently receiving any treatment but her condition is being monitored through further appointments at Scarborough Hospital on a six-monthly basis.
“I had no idea that I had even had this until I read that letter,” said Mrs Bishop.
“I knew I had problems with my blood but that was it.
“The consultant should have told me to my face, I was left high and dry.
“My doctor has explained the condition to me now, but there is nothing they can do.
“They said they would keep an eye on me and I have another appointment in six months.”
Mrs Bishop added that she was also told that sufferers of the disease ‘usually die after two years’.
Medical research does indicate a median survival rate of 24 months, though it is not unusual for patients to live longer as the disease develops very slowly, often over many years.
Mrs Bishop’s specialist and the Scarborough and North East Yorkshire NHS Trust said they could not comment on specific details of individual cases.
But a spokeswoman for the health trust did apologise to Mrs Bishop.
She said: “We are sorry for any distress caused to Mrs Bishop.
“We would urge her to contact our Patient Advice Liaison Service (PALS) on 01723 342434 so that we can look into her records in order to clarify any issues she may have.”