The family of a young mum who died from bowel cancer say they think delays to her treatment caused by the Covid-19 pandemic contributed to her death.
Kelly Smith, from Macclesfield, died aged just 31 in June, 2020, 12 weeks after her fourth round of chemotherapy was postponed when the pandemic took over.
She had been diagnosed with bowel cancer aged 28, 2017, after visiting doctors numerous times but was told it was issues with gall stones or appendicitis.
After finally getting her diagnosis she bravely underwent a hemicolectomy and had 30 of her lymph nodes removed before embarking on a brutal course of chemotherapy.
But when the country went into lockdown her treatment stopped, and she died 12 weeks later.
The young mum-of-one said at the time: “I’m angry at Covid because it’s me that had this break. It’s me that has been put in this situation.”
Kelly leaves behind her seven-year-old son named Finn and her family have launched and the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign to demand that cancer services are resumed to avoid other deaths.
Craig Russell, Kelly’s father, has now co-founded the Catch Up With Cancer campaign that calls for the Government and NHS to boost cancer treatments to tackle treatment delays caused by Covid.
Kelly’s dad Craig Russell said: “The lack of urgency to tackle the cancer backlog is mind-numbing.
“The Government and senior NHS leaders need to react to this national tragedy – it’s not OK to let cancer patients suffer and die. Every day of delay is a day too many.
“It is too late for Kelly, but there’s still time to save others. She was our inspiration and her memory keeps us fighting.”
Speaking previously of his daughter’s experience, Craig said: “In March, she went to the hospital as usual for chemotherapy.
“At that point she was told you need to go on a 12 week break to self-isolate to make sure you don’t catch Covid and ‘you’ll be fine, don’t worry about the chemotherapy.’
“And literally 12 weeks to the day after being told that she died.
“And things sort of did escalate fairly rapidly in that time. So this was sort of late March when she was told that.
“She had some small treatments through April and by the 4th May she was told she had 2-4 weeks to live.
“At the time when she was told that she was going on a 12 week break, she was extremely upset because, as she was quite rightly assuming, the chemotherapy was keeping her alive.
“Obviously once that was stopped there was nothing to keep the cancer in check and it just spread very rapidly throughout her body.”
The Mirror has previously reported there are an estimated 19,500 cancer sufferers who have been undiagnosed since the pandemic began.
And delays in diagnosis may mean 60,000 excess deaths.
Many patients’ lifesaving procedures were postponed. In the year to February 2021, there were 187,000 fewer chemo treatments.
Some patients now have terminal diagnoses. Other people are grieving the loss of a loved one who may have been saved with earlier medical intervention. And the problem is far from over.
Hospital waiting lists in England are at a record high, and lengthening, with 5.6 million people needing treatment.
Even if hospitals increase treatments by 5 per cent, it may still take until 2033 to clear the backlog, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research.