I planned my funeral, but diagnosis was a mistake

Denise Clark, 34, prepared her sons, Harvey, ten, and Luca, four, right, for her death by creating special memories. Picture: Hemedia
Denise Clark, 34, prepared her sons, Harvey, ten, and Luca, four, right, for her death by creating special memories. Picture: Hemedia
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A MOTHER who wrote farewell letters to her young sons and planned her own funeral after being wrongly diagnosed with terminal cancer has won a five-figure damages settlement from a health board.

Denise Clark, 34, said her life was made “absolute hell” for two years after she was given the wrong prognosis at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

She spent £10,000 on treatment at an alternative therapy clinic in Spain in the hope it would prolong her life.

The mother of two, who wanted to spend precious moments with her sons, Harvey and Jack, before she died, eventually grew suspicious because she did not feel unwell.

She demanded another scan and was shocked when the results showed that the growth in her pelvis she had been told was malignant was in fact benign.

Ms Clark raised proceedings against NHS Grampian and won a five-figure settlement.

Yesterday she said she hoped no-one else would be put through the same ordeal her family endured.

“I planned my funeral and wrote farewell notes to my boys. It was heartbreaking but I had to do it for my family. No-one should have to do that if they don’t need to,” she said.

“Hearing them say it was a mistake was amazing and there is a future now, but it doesn’t give me or my kids back the two years of our lives that were made absolute hell.”

Ms Clark’s ordeal began when she was referred for a colposcopy, which is used to diagnose cervical cancer, when she was nine weeks pregnant in 2009.

Concerns were raised because she had been bleeding but she did not get an appointment for the test until five-and-a-half months later. By then she was told that the disease was so far advanced that her baby was delivered early so she could start radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment. Strong doses of the drugs meant she could not hold her newborn baby because there were fears of contamination. She had been given the maximum dose of radiation a body was allowed in a lifetime.

After treatment Ms Clark felt healthy but in November 2011 she began to experience more bleeding. After having a scan she was told it was caused by a huge mass in her pelvis which showed the cancer was back.

“I didn’t know if I was going to end up dying in a hospital or if I would be at home or how it would actually happen,” she said. “I wanted the boys to have fun times and lots of mum memories, like playing football together or having a barbecue.”

Specialists eventually informed Ms Clark that her recurring health problems were caused by internal damage due to the high levels of radiation.

Ms Clark said: “The doctor was there with the test results and my mum burst out crying.

“I got home and said to my son, ‘Harvey, the doctors made a mistake, they are wrong’. His little face just lit up and he was hugging me the hardest he has ever hugged me.”

The oil firm operations manager said she had nothing but praise for many of the medical staff at the ARI X-ray unit but said she felt let down by NHS Grampian.

She said: “It wasn’t just one department that got it wrong, it was multiple departments.”

NHS Grampian refused to comment on the case, adding that it was a confidential matter.