Caters Jeannine Harvey with her son Jack (left) and Frankie (right)
A mother-of-four died from cervical cancer after doctors misdiagnosed her malignant tumour 30 times, her devastated family claims.
Jeannine Harvey, 33, was in so much pain that she couldn't get out of bed without assistance – buit doctors put her condition down to 'anxiety' following a suspected torn ligament.
She was eventually diagnosed with cancer just three months before she died in July. Jeannine's family are taking legal action against Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust.
Her sisters Eleanor Sherrington and Marie Donovan claim Jeannine's death may have been prevented with an earlier diagnosis. Her children Paul, 16, Jack, 12, Frankie, five, and Ella, two, are grieving for their mother.
Jeannine, an accountancy student from Rowley Regis in the West Midlands, first complained about pain in her stomach and left leg in December last year.
After a blood test for ovarian cancer came back elevated, her GP arranged for ultrasound scans.
These revealed a mass about 4cm wide on the left side of her pelvic area. Despite this, the family claim medics at Birmingham City Hospital told her it was just nerve pain.
Two months later she was told the mass had gone and she did not have cancer. It was suggested she had a cyst which had burst and Jeannine was referred back to her GP for physiotherapy, who suggested the pain could have been a problem with her back.
But over the next few days she collapsed several times and was rushed to A & E at Sandwell Hospital - where she was told she had a possible torn ligament. Another MRI scan diagnosed protruding discs which would require more physiotherapy.
Marie, 34, said:
No one listened to us and the doctors constantly patronised us by saying it was Jeannine's anxiety making her pain worse.
To prove the agony Jeannine was going through, the family secretly filmed her on her hospital bed crying out in pain 'I'm dying'.
Finally in April, her GP arranged for her to be admitted to the Medical Assessment Unit at Birmingham City Hospital.
It was only then that a nurse, upon seeing her condition and medication, assumed she was a cancer patient and she was finally diagnosed with sarcoma a few days later. These are rare cancers that develop in the supporting or connective tissues of the body such as muscle, bone, nerves, cartilage, blood vessels and fat.
But her family say even this diagnosis turned out to be incorrect. In June, medics realised it was actually uterine cancer of the cervix that Jeannine was suffering from. The mass detected in early January had now grown up to 8cm and was the real root cause of her illness and pain over the previous months.
Further delays in confirming the diagnosis meant that chemotherapy wasn't scheduled to begin until June 2012. By the time Ms Harvey began the treatment, the tumour had become infected and shattered her pelvic bone.
She was admitted to a hospice on July 13 and died 10 days later, leaving behind her four children, the youngest aged only two, and three sisters.
Marie told her local paper: "The whole family are still in shock - the treatment Jeannine received was like something out of the dark ages.
My beautiful sister was in complete agony, she was crippled with pain, but no one listened to her. She was screaming out in pain day and night, telling us that she felt like someone was constantly stabbing her between her legs.
"She barely slept for six months, the pain was so bad. It took two of us to lift her into the car to take her to hospital appointments, but no one there seemed to be able to see how bad she was."
Jill Davies, a medical negligence lawyer with Shoosmiths, representing the family said: "This is one of the most tragic and distressing cases I have ever seen and I believe it has national implications for the diagnosis and timely treatment of cancer.
"Even if Ms Harvey's life could not have been saved, with an earlier correct diagnosis she could have avoided months of intractable pain. She had more than 30 visits and appointments with three major hospitals."
Jessamy Kinghorn, of Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "We are extremely sorry for any distress caused to the family. We can understand the family's need for answers and an internal investigation has already been held into Jeannine's care."
• Jeannine's family have now set up a website: Justice4Jeannine.com
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