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GPs sent me away 13 times and dismissed me as neurotic. Now I’ve been told that I am dying of cancer.

Ruth McDonagh ‘fobbed off’ by doctors who told her to ‘take warm baths or eat different food’

24 January 2011

A mother has been given 18 months to live after  doctors failed to diagnose her cancer more than a dozen times.

Ruth McDonagh, 46, pleaded with GPs for two years to test her for the disease but was repeatedly ‘fobbed off’, and  dismissed as ‘neurotic’.

Medical records show she visited GPs 13 times complaining of symptoms before she was finally diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Despite being in excruciating pain, doctors told her simply to take warm baths or eat different foods. And when she became so ill she couldn’t eat, an extraordinary doctor’s note shows she was prescribed a herbal remedy, with the GP noting: ‘Admits is neurotic.’

By the time she was diagnosed in January last year, doctors found the tumour had progressed to the most severe stage, rendering it virtually impossible to treat.

Now 4in long, it has spread to the bottom of her spine and is likely to kill her.

Her only hope is an operation that would involve removing the tumour  with part of her spine, but she has been unable to find a surgeon capable of carrying it out.

Her chance of surviving such an operation would be low and, if she did, she would be unable to use the lower half of her body.

Mrs McDonagh, an office PA  from Enfield, North London, is instructing solicitors to compile a compensation claim against the NHS to help provide for her son Brandon, 11.

She said: ‘I knew the symptoms of bowel cancer so I went back again and again, but I couldn’t get anyone to take it seriously. I was just fobbed off. I was in such excruciating pain and I couldn’t eat. It was obvious that something was seriously wrong with me.

‘I feel I’ve been failed by the NHS. I might have been cured by now if  I had been diagnosed when the symptoms began.’
She added: ‘Who’s going to look after my son if I go? It’s been awful for him. He’s having nightmares and even wrote to Santa asking for me to be cured. It’s heartbreaking.’

Despite pleading with medics to test her for cancer, Mrs McDonagh was told to simply ‘take warm baths or eat different foods’

Medical records show Mrs McDonagh, a divorcee, first visited her GP in December 2008, when she complained of bleeding. She asked the doctor whether it could be due to bowel cancer, but was told it was a result of digestion problems.

Over the next two years, she visited GPs in Potters Bar and Enfield another 12 times, complaining also of bloating and abdominal pain – both symptoms of the disease.

In June 2009, she was referred to Chase Farm Hospital for an X-ray, which found several abnormalities in the bowel. But several days later, when she visited her GP yet again, she was told to take warm baths and drink warm fluids.

Iona Millais, a solicitor at Russell Jones and Walker, said: ‘She feels very strongly that she brought the key symptoms to the attention of the medical professionals. ‘By the time she was diagnosed, many of the treatments were no longer available to her.’

Mrs McDonagh has launched a website,, to raise funds and seek a doctor to volunteer to carry out the operation that might save her. She said: ‘If it weren’t for my son I might  give up, but I need to keep fighting for his sake.’

NHS North Central London and NHS Hertfordshire, which are responsible for the two GP surgeries that treated Mrs McDonagh, said she should contact their complaints departments.

A spokesman for Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust, which oversees Chase Farm Hospital, said: ‘We are currently investigating this case.

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