Readers' Blog: Living with effects of radiotherapy treatment

Cork University Hospital

In December, 2016, my wife was diagnosed with cervical cancer; she began a six-week course of radiotherapy and brachytherapy internal radiation therapy at CUH in mid-January 2017, and upon completion of the treatment the results became positive.

We believed she had beaten cervical cancer. Lurking in the darkness was a demon condition as a consequence of the radiotherapy treatment.

In the mid-spring of 2018, smears of leaking blood from the anus became almost an everyday occurrence and her GP referred her back to CUH. In brief summary, she spent almost the entire summer (four months) in hospital confinement.

The bleeding was caused by the radiotherapy brachytherapy and is still extensive, almost on a daily basis. Consultants have stated they can only treat this condition — they cannot cure it — it’s a lifetime condition caused by the radiotherapy.

Admissions have been through A&E, she is now 76 years old and the dreaded trolleys became a huge issue. It was punishment thrown upon punishment but that’s the HSE’s way of caring for seriously ill patients. The paramedics are, without exception, the most caring people at their job. But our experience has been that getting to see the appropriate doctors during my wife’s confinements is nigh-on impossible. You will see them, but not until they are ready.

On the day I wrote this, my wife was again hospital-bound as a consequence of regular bleeding for the last two weeks. My daughter just rang me to inform me that she had been told there is no bed at CUH for my wife. She was told that 50 people are waiting on beds and people are being turned away.

We finally got a call to bring my wife to CUH where a bed was in waiting but not before days of extreme frustration trying to avoid A&E. After seven days of hospitalisation and a number of transfusions, she was discharged once again last Friday evening, but unfortunately, the bleeding is back again almost daily, without remission.

This is the HSE in 2018, backed up by our health minister.

Writing to our health minister has not yielded any results and the HSE refuses to provide an email address for its CEO. When urgent admission is required, we have to go through the whole A&E process, take an ambulance to the door, and join the queue.

Our family is now on a mission to discover how many more Cork people and Irish people have been similarly affected by radiotherapy treatment for cervical cancer and how they were treated and lived (for how long) with this severe medical condition.

The condition impairs normal quality of life to almost zero and medical answers are evasive so far; the condition will most likely become terminal with regular transfusions essential.

We are appealing for information from people who have suffered the same consequences to enlighten us at the earliest opportunity.

I can be contacted by email at derryjfd@gmail.com

- Name and address have been withheld on request

A spokesperson for Cork University Hospital said: “Cork University Hospital sympathises with the patient in question, however, the hospital does not engage in public commentary about a patient’s medical condition or records. The hospital will continue to provide whatever medical support it can.”

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