A young Suffolk hospital worker was finally diagnosed with a “ticking time bomb” combination of cancer and a heart condition – after she lost so much weight, friends thought she had an eating disorder.
West Suffolk Hospital assistant practitioner Bethan Goodey, 27, regularly worked 12-hour shifts lifting patients and heavy equipment.
Little did the Bury St Edmunds NHS worker know she could have gone into cardiac arrest at any moment.
Her weight had dropped to just 7st 5lb (47kg), with the work putting a huge amount of strain on her heart.
A persistent cough led her to seek medical help, undergoing a routine X-ray in September 2019 – which helped doctors identify a 4in (10cm) cancerous tumour in her chest, causing a dangerous 500ml build up of fluid.
She was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma, with tumours in her lymph nodes, back, shoulder and chest.
Her condition was so severe that doctors told her not to move due to the risk of her heart failing – and was taken to the hospital’s cardiac unit for monitoring ahead of surgery.
She underwent six rounds of chemotherapy over seven months at West Suffolk Hospital and had heart surgery at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge.
She received the all-clear in March last year and is now shielding from Covid-19. She is also undergoing counselling to help come to terms with her ordeal.
Ms Goodey said it has taken “ages” to trust her body again.
She said: “I’m very lucky to be alive as I was walking around with a ticking time bomb inside me. My heart could have stopped at work or at home or driving my car.
“It’s so scary when I think how close I was to dying and I had no idea.
“If my heart had not killed me, the cancer or Covid would have got me because I had no immune system and I was putting an immense strain on my body.”
Ms Goodey added it took five years for a diagnosis, with people not believing how ill she was because of her age.
She said: “It felt like I was not being listened to because I looked so well.
“After years of unexplained weight loss, going back and forth to the GP, each time being reassured that I would be ‘more unwell if it was anything serious’ or that my bloods would be ‘more deranged’ if it was cancer, I was finally diagnosed with the cancer.
“But, by then, it had spread and my heart was compromised because of the fluid build-up which prevented it from functioning normally.
“I was strapped to a heart monitor for over a month and I couldn’t leave my bed or do anything because any activity could have killed me.
“It’s so scary knowing how close I came to dying.”
She is urging people to sign up to Cancer Research UK’s Walk All Over Cancer campaign, to get sponsored to walk 10,000 steps every day in March to support the charity’s life-saving mission.
Those interested can sign up here.