A 34-year-old mother was diagnosed with stage cancer four months after a scan to evaluate for swelling in her throat due to the coronavirus was canceled.
Toni Cunnington first went to the ER in February 2020 after noticing that her lips had turned blue and her throat was swollen.
She was referred to the hospital, where doctors identified a cyst and booked an ultrasound for March 23.
However, that scan was canceled along with all other ‘non-emergency’ appointments when the nationwide coronavirus lockdown began.
It wasn’t until September that the swelling got worse and Toni returned to the ER, which is when doctors identified stage four lymphoma.
Toni said, “It’s so unfair. Many cancer patients I know have suffered because Covid has caused a lot of stress on the NHS.
After visiting A&E, Toni, from Leeds, West Yorkshire, was referred to the ear, nose and throat department at St James Hospital in the city.
She then received a call from the original doctor who canceled her scan in March, who was profusely apologetic.
The mother of four said, “From that moment I knew I had cancer.”
Her lymph nodes were removed, and less than a week later, Toni received the dreaded phone call confirming she had stage four Hodgkin lymphoma.
Toni said: “Waiting was the worst because everyone around you doesn’t want it to be like this, but I realized it was cancer.
“I called every day to talk to the doctor, I wanted results, I wanted things to go faster and a friend even offered to pay me to go in private.
“Fortunately, lymphoma is a slow-growing cancer, but I had to wait.”
Toni said she doesn’t want what has happened to her to paint the NHS negatively.
The service saved her son’s life eight years ago, after he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at 15 months of age.
She added: “My mother 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 get angry when cancer is involved and I feel like a Covid patient is more important than me.”
Toni had to wait to start her chemotherapy because she was very sick but on November 11 she began her six months of treatment.
You will be screened after two months to see if it is working, as the cancer has also spread to your lungs and partially paralyzed your left hand.
Toni said, “When my chemotherapy started, I encouraged a little.
“I was like ‘yes, it has started’ because I honestly thought that the news of the second blockade would cancel that as well.”
As Toni’s treatment is still in its early stages, her prognosis is not yet known; however, Hodgkin lymphoma is treatable.
The five-year survival rate for people with stage four is around 65%, but many factors, such as age, can play a role.
Dr Phil Wood, Medical Director of the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust, said: “We are very supportive of Ms. Cunnington’s situation.
“We are pleased that he is now receiving the appropriate treatment and care, and we wish him well.
“At the time of Ms Cunnington’s outpatient appointment in March, we unfortunately 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 additional symptoms, they responded quickly with a follow-up care plan.”
Last week, Toni shaved her head to donate her hair to the Little Princess Trust to give a girl suffering from cancer the chance to get a wig.
The money you raise from donations will go to The Candlelighters Trust, which was the charity that helped Toni and her son Jacob get through their treatment.