02.03.2024

Irreplaceable mother-of-two whose cancer symptoms were dismissed as Covid jab side effects

A mother-of-two who was diagnosed with terminal cancer after bungling medics dismissed her symptoms as side-effects of having the Covid jab has died.

Katie Pritchard, from Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, passed away surrounded by her family in June following a 17-month battle with cervical cancer.

The 37-year-old went to her GP last January after finding a lump, where medics suggested it may be a result of her Covid vaccine or an STI.

Wanting a second opinion, the NHS nurse manager self-referred for an appointment with a gynaecologist. It was only then that she was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Her husband, Tom, said she has left an ‘irreplaceable’ space and the pain of losing his ‘best friend and mother to my two boys at 37 is indescribable’.

Katie Pritchard (pictured with her son Cass post-treatment last summer), passed away surrounded by her family in June following a 17-month battle with cervical cancer

The nurse manager (pictured with her partner Tom Cronin), mother to sons Percy, four, and Cass, two, went to her GP after finding a lump

The nurse manager (pictured with her partner Tom Cronin), mother to sons Percy, four, and Cass, two, went to her GP after finding a lump

Ms Pritchard went to her GP last January after finding a lump.

But a nurse practitioner told her that there was ‘nothing to worry about’ and that her symptoms may have been down to the Pfizer vaccine.

After asking for a second opinion, medics also suggested her lump may be a prolapsed bladder from having children or a STI.

At the time, Ms Pritchard said she was left insulted by the latter suggestion — as she had been with her partner for 17 years.

Medics didn’t explain why they thought her symptoms were due to the Covid jab.

But vaccines can temporarily cause swollen lymph nodes, according to experts.

Unhappy with how medics were handling her case, Ms Pritchard, who works at Horton General Hospital in Banbury, referred herself for an appointment with a gynaecologist at Stratford Sexual Health Clinic last February.

There, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

But she was forced to wait an agonising three months for her treatment to begin — by which point the cancer had spread.

Ms Pritchard began five weeks of gruelling radiotherapy, chemotherapy and brachytherapy last April and was told the treatment was a success.

But in December, after undergoing further scans, she received the heartbreaking news that her cancer had returned and was given months to live.

Despite the devastating blow, Ms Pritchard was determined to keep positive and on the day of her terminal diagnosis boyfriend Tom Cronin, 35, popped the question.

In February, the couple, who were together for 18 years, said their vows in front of immediate family members during an emotional ceremony at Stratford-upon-Avon Registry Office.

Mr Cronin, a geography teacher, has now told of his devastation and ‘indescribable pain’ after revealing Ms Prichard passed away surrounded by her loved ones.

Ms Pritchard had a crowdfunder to raise £200,000 for a potentially life-prolonging drug, which is not available on the NHS.

The drug, named pembrolizumab — sold under the brand name Keytruda — costs an eye-watering £6,000 every three weeks.

However, the drugs company pulled out the day before her treatment was due to start, her husband claimed.

Updating well-wishers on her fundraising page, Mr Cronin wrote: ‘I wanted to start this update with a massive thank you.

‘Katie and I were absolutely blown away by the support from people we know, people we don’t, those in the UK, abroad, those with a personal story close to ours and to those who just wanted to help.

‘This support has not only been an obvious financial help, but has felt like we are not alone in our struggle.

Unhappy with her treatment, Ms Pritchard, who worked at Horton General Hospital in Banbury, Oxon, booked herself an appointment with a gynaecologist last February

At the start of this year, Ms Pritchard (pictured with Mr Cronin and their sons Cass and Percy) was diagnosed with lung, shoulder, spine, and pelvic cancer and started palliative chemotherapy three weeks ago

At the start of this year, Ms Pritchard (pictured with Mr Cronin and their sons Cass and Percy) was diagnosed with lung, shoulder, spine, and pelvic cancer and started palliative chemotherapy three weeks ago

Ms Pritchard's (pictured with her former rugby team Stratford RFC) husband said she had left an 'irreplaceable' space and the pain of losing his 'best friend and mother to my two boys at 37 is indescribable'

Ms Pritchard’s (pictured with her former rugby team Stratford RFC) husband said she had left an ‘irreplaceable’ space and the pain of losing his ‘best friend and mother to my two boys at 37 is indescribable’

‘In a period of constant suffering and sadness, kind words and support have often been the positive to drag us through.

‘The past 18 months have been a rollercoaster. In particular, the last 6 months have been a particular struggle with regards to healthcare, viable options and emotional unrest.

‘In January, the immediate outlook was not great. Being given a terminal prognosis and «months rather than years» meant overnight our lives changed.’

He said their wedding day was ‘perfect’ — even though it is not the way they originally thought it would be.

At the time they tied the knot, Ms Prichard described the day as ‘perfect’ from start to finish and felt like ‘cancer didn’t exist’ during their celebrations.

Mr Cronin added: ‘Having raised the money that we needed to start the Pembro treatment, we felt like at least we had a hope.

‘It would at least slow down the cancer and prolong Katie’s life.

‘The day before her first treatment however, we had a call from the consultant telling us that the drug company had pulled her drugs and that we would not be able to start on the Pembro, due to her Chemo drugs, timing and situation.

‘This was, again, absolutely devastating and hit us hard.’

Mr Cronin said his wife was accepted onto another trial but that option was also taken away when doctors agreed she was too poorly to be treated.

He added: ‘The extremely fast pace of her disease meant that we were often chasing our tails and trying to slow it was in vain.

‘At this point, all options had been explored and we were out of possible alternatives.’

Ms Prichard moved in with her parents to better manage her pain and get more support, while Mr Cronin looked after their children.

As her pain and cancer progressed, she was moved into Warwick Myton Hospice.

Mr Cronin said: ‘Pain, mobility and fatigue became a daily struggle. We were able to get a couple of hours a day with the boys in her room or playing outside.’

There, she was able to have visitors, parties, trips to the pub, walks in the park and see her children at football training.

Mr Cronin added: ‘Katie died with her family surrounding her on 17th June.

‘The space she has left is irreplaceable and the pain of losing my best friend and mother to my two boys at 37 is indescribable.

‘She was buried at Tysoe natural burial ground with a very small gathering of family and friends on 7th July.’

Describing her cancer battle, Ms Prichard previously said: ‘I will continue on it for as long as my body can tolerate it or as long as I live.

‘I want to tell people how important it is to live your life and to go on lots of adventures.

‘Turn off Netflix and go outside and enjoy yourself. You need to live for now and not for the future.’

WHAT IS CERVICAL CANCER?

Cervical cancer affects the lining of the lower part of womb.

The most common symptom is unusual bleeding, such as between periods, during sex or after the menopause, but other signs can include:

  • Pain during sex
  • Vaginal discharge that smells
  • Pain in the pelvis

Causes can include:

  • Age — more than half of sufferers are under 45
  • HPV infection — which affects most people at some point in their lives
  • Smoking — responsible for 21 per cent of cases
  • Contraceptive pill — linked to 10 per cent of cases
  • Having children
  • Family history of cervical or other types of cancer, like vagina

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