Cancer patient and nurse shares her experience on the strained NHS: The NHS is under-staffed and stressed

BY KATE DENNETT
toby@slpmedia.co.uk

A nurse and mother-of-two shared her experience as a cancer patient in an under-resourced and strained NHS.

Bromley resident Amanda Mahoney, 48, lives with treatable but non-curable breast cancer and spoke out about her condition.

Amanda was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 after finding a lump when showering at the gym.

She experienced the NHS in her former job as a nurse and now as a metastatic breast cancer patient.

Amanda’s chemotherapy was stopped when they realised the blood clots in her lungs attached to the wall of her heart.

She now undergoes palliative care and lives in three-month periods, waiting to see what will happen at her next scan.

She said: “When the registrar confirmed the diagnosis, I remember saying ‘thank you,’ – so polite and, realistically, not my actual first choice of words.

“I’ve subsequently thanked everyone who’s diagnosed a recurrence or delivered bad medical news – cancer has clearly not affected my manners.”

Amanda appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire TV show on November 29 to talk about how NHS cuts and staff shortages affect patients and staff.

She said: “Currently there is no support group in place at the hospital. There is one Metastatic Breast Care Nurse who works two-and-a-half days per week, as opposed to her three full-time colleagues for primary patients.

“Acknowledging the budgetary and workload constraints of a struggling NHS and the lack of
specific metastatic/secondary cancer support sends a message that my patient brain, as opposed to my ex-nurse or rational adult one, is given to interpret that, as a group, we are somehow the less deserving, poor relations of breast cancer.

“The flagstones of my former profession – empathy, sympathy, a cup of tea and a friendly ear that people side has been lost.

“At the trust where I’m treated, there’s only one, part-time secondary breast cancer nurse, so I’m managed, but there’s no time to support or comfort me. That’s why I turn to people like Macmillan.

“The NHS I see is under-resourced, under-staffed and stressed. You almost feel guilty for needing their help and reassurance.

“But they are working against phenomenally difficult circumstances. I’ve had a consultant call me long after clinic had finished and their shift should be over – clearly going above and beyond.

“As a patient and an ex-nurse, I know first-hand that you need to invest in your people, your
workforce. Staff are suffering and the impact on patients can be harder.”

Macmillan research shows more than 60 per cent of newly-diagnosed cancer patients are not getting the help they need, and one in five patients felt their healthcare professionals had unmanageable workloads.

Their report found a Londoner receives a cancer diagnosis every 15 minutes.

Amanda said: “The first contact you make with Macmillan can make all the difference, and it certainly has with my life and cancer experience. I hate the way that cancer is often described as a “journey”. That drives me mad.

“A journey is when you go through passport control and are rewarded by sitting by a pool having a cocktail. I prefer to use the word experience. After all it’s all about my own personal cancer experience.

“Cancer turns your life upside down. My coping strategies have been Prosecco and Love island at times. Everyone talks about the ‘New Normal,’ but to be honest nothing is normal when you have cancer.

Your identity changes. But I want to say that I am not cancer. I am so much more than that.”
Cancer diagnoses have climbed by 20 per cent in the past five years, with nearly three million people living with cancer in the UK today.

For support, call 0808 808 00 00 or visit macmillan.org.uk.

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