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Doctors miss cancer that killed lecturer
A university lecturer has died of lung cancer at 37 – after doctors initially diagnosed her illness as “purely psychological”.
Lisa Smirl, who died at the end of last month, wrote on her online blog of her treatment.
The medical doctor’s wife, who does not name her own GP, described how she repeatedly visited her doctor after becoming ill.
But she said her concerns were dismissed as anxiety and depression.
In the blog, written last November, Dr Smirl said: “How is it possible that a 36-year-old, health [obsessed] conscious, occasionally social smoking, middle class, fiancee of a doctor can develop metastatic lung cancer unnoticed. How?!?”
Describing the moment of diagnosis, she said: “What the consultant told us was that not only was it the c- word, but that it was everywhere.
“My brain, my bones, my liver.
“While in some ways this was a terrible surprise, in another it was a huge relief.
“For the last year I’d been bat- tling a range of bizarre and seemingly disparate symptoms that had forced me in September 2011 to go on sick leave from my job as a lecturer (assistant professor).
“The diagnosis at the time was anxiety and/or depression. And while I was both anxious and depressed, this was due to the increasingly disabling symptoms that my doctor kept insisting were purely psychological.
“So I was actually grateful for a medical diagnosis that confirmed there were objective, physical reasons behind my illness.”
Dr Smirl worked in the global studies department at the University of Sussex between 2009 and 2012, but took early retirement.
Despite being sick, she maintained an honorary lectureship in the department.
She also completed the Great North Run to raise money for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation in November 2012.
The Argus contacted West Sussex PCT and the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust.
However, neither was able to confirm whether they were involved in Dr Smirl’s treatment.
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