‘My dad died from cancer weeks after being told pea-size lump was just a cyst’

Mum with lung cancer denied funding for treatment

Charlotte Beckerleg said her dad, Martin Nicholls, discovered a pea-sized lump on his inner thigh in April 2018.

After visiting the doctor, he was informed that it was likely to be a cyst and nothing to worry about. However, over the next few weeks, Martin noticed that the lump was still growing rapidly.

Upon returning to the doctor for a second time, it was decided that he would undergo scans and a biopsy for further investigation. Charlotte, from Camborne, stated that the wait for the scans at that time was approximately six weeks, during which the lump on her dad’s leg had grown to the size of an apple.

Charlotte told Cornwall Live: “Days after his tests we got the dreaded phone call saying it was a sarcoma of his inner quad muscle and it would need to be removed within two weeks. But they were sure it hadn’t spread anywhere else, to our relief.

“So two weeks later we were sent to Derriford [Hospital in Plymouth] to have his inner quad muscle removed in limb-saving surgery. The surgery went well and the surgeons were happy they had got all the cancer. By then it was nine weeks since finding the lump and it had grown to weigh a massive pound and a half.”

Charlotte believed that her dad’s recovery was progressing well, and he underwent some radiotherapy treatment before starting his rehabilitation. She said: “Dad was adapting brilliantly and was in great shape, or so we thought.”

“In late September dad got a cough that wouldn’t budge. He went to the doctor who told him it was a viral infection and if it didn’t improve to come back in two weeks. It got worse so the doctors, erring on the side of caution, sent him for a chest X-ray.”

Two days later, the family received devastating news that the cancer had spread to Martin’s lungs, and he would require chemotherapy. However, three weeks passed without receiving a date for his treatment to begin.

During this time, Martin’s health deteriorated, and his family ended up rushing him to A&E, where he was treated for pleurisy (inflammation in the lungs) and fast-tracked to receive chemotherapy.

Charlotte said: “We were told it was very promising and that all would be well. So every two out of three weeks, dad endured five hours of chemotherapy and many more stays in Treliske, combating the side effects of his treatment.

“Just after Christmas dad was very poorly so they kept cancelling his chemotherapy which meant the cancer started growing again. So they switched him to a stronger chemotherapy drug with all the hope this would work.

“He had his first round of treatment and he was so well it was amazing to see the transformation in him. Then a week later my dad was rushed into hospital for the last time where we were told the cancer was winning and he had months left to live.

“Five days later my dad became critical. We spent every waking moment with him but three days later he passed away in his sleep at the age of 50. My dad was one in a million. It was that rare. But truly he was one in a million for many other reasons. My dad was inspirational, strong, loved and never gave in.”

Charlotte said Martin’s death had a profound impact not only on his family but also on the community. Since then, she has dedicated her time to raising awareness of her dad’s cancer as a carer specialist through the charity Sarcoma UK, where she has had the opportunity to speak about it in Parliament.

“I didn’t want my dad to die in vain and if I can stop at least one other family from going through what we did, then I’ve done my job,” she said. “My dad was an amazing man. He was a member of the Stithians brass band and a keen biker.

“The effect it had on everyone when he died was crazy. 400 people showed up to his funeral. As a family, it was absolutely devastating for us. We didn’t expect it at all. We were initially told it was a cyst and then that he could wake up from his operation with no leg.

“Two weeks before he died we were told would live. The worst case scenario happened and it was devastating. Even the nurses didn’t expect him to die when he did.”

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