Caroline Guy had discharged a telltale symptom of a swollen stomach and was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer
A mother who has just three months to live after a doctor misdiagnosed her cancer as Menopause spoke of her surprise at being told she was now in remission.
Caroline Guy, 56, was heartbroken after being diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, which had spread to her liver and ovaries in January 2020.
The doctors gave her the devastating prognosis that the cancer was incurable and that she only had about three or four months to live.
But Caroline refused to give up hope and continued to undergo grueling rounds of chemotherapy to shrink tumors at Nottingham University Hospitals.
Six weeks ago, she went under the knife for major surgery at the city’s Queen’s Medical Center, where she underwent a full hysterectomy and part of her intestines.
“I was in pain… I looked like I was seven months pregnant”
And after further testing, Caroline was stunned to learn she is now cancer-free, which she has described as “a miracle”.
The mother-of-two had previously dismissed her tell-tale symptoms of a swollen belly in 2019 by a GP, who told her it was likely due to menopause.
She even googled her symptoms and asked the doctor directly if it was colon cancer, to which he replied that it wasn’t and sent her on her way.
Caroline said: “I felt sluggish, I just didn’t feel right.
“My stomach was swollen — I had googled my symptoms and asked him directly if I had colon cancer and he said no.”
In January 2020, Caroline was visiting her husband Adam in Saudi Arabia where she woke up in agony one night.
She added: “I was in pain walking, I looked like I was seven months pregnant and one night I woke up feeling violently nauseous. I just felt awful.”
Caroline was hospitalized in Saudi Arabia and within four days she had X-rays, scans, MRI, blood tests.
A counselor brought her husband and youngest daughter Gabrielle to her where they broke the tragic news.
Caroline added: “When I saw their faces I thought this is not good.
“My daughter couldn’t look at me. I could not believe it. I just said, ‘How long have I had it? And ‘am I going to die?’”
The surgeon had told her husband it was “very bad,” adding, “They’re expecting three to four months.”
She added: “They didn’t tell me that at the time. He was still picking our daughter off the floor – they had to give her oxygen.
“I can laugh now, but it must have been like something out of a Carry On movie.”
“I didn’t want to hear a time scale”
In late January, Caroline was referred to the head of oncology, who told her to stay positive and “avoid Google.”
Declared inoperable and incurable, she began chemotherapy and a targeted drug, Cituximae.
Caroline returned to the UK to see her daughter Hollie in Nottingham in September – and immediately caught Covid and had to isolate.
She said: “It was scary, the thought of going back to England, worrying if I would still get my treatment because I had done so well in Saudi, but I had to come back.
“I needed to see my family”
Caroline checked herself into Nottingham City Hospital where scans showed the tumor had shrunk and she now had around two years to live.
She added: “I was heartbroken, I didn’t want to hear a time scale, I was really fine.
“I continued with fortnightly chemotherapy and cituximae.
“I had a pump put in and went home for 48 hours of chemotherapy.
“It was a long, hard process, but my treatment was never discontinued. And the staff were absolutely amazing – they were under a lot of pressure.
“Nurses who should have finished were there hours after their shifts ended because they can’t just walk away when machines are beeping and patients need attention.”
Scans showed the chemotherapy had helped shrink all of the tumors and she could have had surgery, but it would be a “huge operation”.
Caroline said: “I said yes please. The only way to beat colon cancer is through surgery to eliminate the root cause.
“I knew if I did that the cancer could come back, but if it did come back I would take care of it.”
“I just couldn’t believe it. It’s a miracle’
Caroline was transferred to Queen’s Medical Center and met surgeons Alastair Simpson and David Humes, whom she named Ant and Dec.
They removed part of her intestines and performed a full hysterectomy, and after a histology and other tests, confirmed that she was in remission.
She added: “The surgeon looked at me and said you didn’t have cancer. I said, “Are you sure? I just couldn’t believe it. It’s a miracle.
“My treatment in Saudi Arabia cost £110,000 – my husband’s pension fund – because I wasn’t insured. I received all my documents a week after the cancer diagnosis.
“The money it has cost for private care – although it was amazing – doesn’t touch what I’ve done here with the NHS and the NHS is so slammed.
“For the surgeons to say, ‘We’ve got everything, you’re cancer-free’ — how can I thank them?
“How can I thank the NHS? Some of the staff are like family. The amount of people involved in my care and they were all wonderful.
“I met the Crown Prince of Bahrain, I met Professor Stephen Hawkings before he died and I met David Jason … and I met Alastair and David – and they are part of my VIP list.”
Caroline will be in remission for five years and will be monitored by her oncologist every three months.
Husband Adam is now returning to England at the end of the year and the couple are planning to buy a house in Nottingham to be close to their daughters Hollie and Gabrielle.
Caroline said: “The last two and a half years have been the strangest of times, a time of re-evaluation. It made me a stronger person, stronger than I ever thought possible.
“I had dark thoughts, but I always felt like the lighter thoughts overshadowed them. I have a permanent grin on my face.
“I fear nothing more because nothing can be as bad as learning that you have terminal and terminal cancer.
“I’m a positive person but of course I had these thoughts, so when a surgeon says they’re going to operate – and not with the intention of prolonging your life, but to heal you, that means everything – I owe them everything.” .”
“The NHS is an amazing organization”
Alastair, who is also clinical director of the Cancer Alliance, said: “Caroline has had extensive chemotherapy and surgical resection of multiple organs, which is physically demanding but also presents significant psychological distress and the potential for serious complications.
“Nottingham has an advanced cancer service that can coordinate this treatment and support them throughout the process.
“However, I must emphasize the importance of Caroline’s positive attitude and bravery in the successful outcome of her case.
“There were a lot of people involved in Caroline’s care and it’s really important how well they worked together.
“It has been my pleasure to be part of the team that is taking her from a life-threatening cancer diagnosis to her current state of remission and monitoring.
“The NHS is an amazing organization and to hear some positive stories from someone who has had really positive experiences in many areas of the NHS is really great.”
Acting hospital director Rupert Egginton said: “That’s incredible to hear – it’s great for our staff to realize that small gestures of kindness really make a difference.
“When we understand things from the patient’s perspective, that’s where we do our best work.”