NHS worker's dramatic weight loss caused by ‘ticking time bomb’ condition: 'I had no idea how close I was to dying'

Marie Claire Dorking
·4 min read
Goodey says people believed she looked too well to have anything seriously wrong with her. (PA Real Life)
Goodey says people believed she looked too well to have anything seriously wrong with her. (PA Real Life)

A woman whose friends thought her weight loss was due to an eating disorder has revealed she is lucky to be alive after being diagnosed with a "ticking time bomb" condition.

Bethan Goodey, 27, an NHS worker from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, had dropped from a dress size 10 to a four before doctors revealed she had a combination of cancer and a life-threatening heart condition.

The assistant practitioner regularly worked 12-hour shifts at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, lifting patients and heavy equipment, and had seen her weight fall to just 7st 5lb (47kg).

Goodey says she was unaware at the time that she was putting a huge strain on her heart and could have gone into cardiac arrest at any moment.

Her diagnosis, of a heart condition and stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma, came in September 2019 after a routine chest X-ray for a persistent cough.

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Doctors identified a 4in (10cm) cancerous tumour in her chest that was causing fluid to build up dangerously around her heart.

Her condition was so severe that she was told not to move due to the risk of her heart failing, and was wheeled to the hospital’s cardiac unit for monitoring ahead of surgery.

(PA Real Life)
Goodey's friends were concerned she was suffering from an eating disorder as she lost so much weight. (PA Real Life)

As well as undergoing six rounds of chemotherapy over seven months at West Suffolk Hospital, Goodey also had heart surgery at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge before being given the all-clear in March 2020.

“I’m very lucky to be alive as I was walking around with a ticking time bomb inside me," says Goodey, who is now shielding.

“My heart could have stopped at work or at home or driving my car.

“It’s so scary when I think how close I was to dying and I had no idea.

“If my heart had not killed me, the cancer or COVID would have got me because I had no immune system and I was putting an immense strain on my body.”

Watch: Energy drinks could contribute to heart conditions

Goodey says it took five years for a diagnosis because no one believed how ill she was because of her age.

“It felt like I was not being listened to because I looked so well," she says.

“After years of unexplained weight loss, going back and forth to the GP, each time being reassured that I would be ‘more unwell if it was anything serious’ or that my bloods would be ‘more deranged’ if it was cancer, I was finally diagnosed with the cancer.

“But, by then, it had spread and my heart was compromised because of the fluid build-up which prevented it from functioning normally.

“I was strapped to a heart monitor for over a month and I couldn’t leave my bed or do anything because any activity could have killed me.”

(PA Real Life)
Goodey underwent chemotherapy and heart surgery following her diagnosis. (PA Real Life)

After having 500ml of fluid drained from her heart, Goodey was later diagnosed with cancer in her lymph nodes, back, shoulder and chest.

She says she has been told she may not be able to have children and is now having counselling to come to terms with her near-death experience.

“It has taken me ages to trust my body again,” she says.

“It’s so scary knowing how close I came to dying.”

Read more: Mum diagnosed with incurable breast cancer days after giving birth to twins

Goodey now wants to encourage people to sign up to Cancer Research UK’s Walk All Over Cancer campaign, to get sponsored to walk 10,000 steps every day in March to support the charity’s life-saving mission.

To sign up and receive a free fundraising pack, see https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/get-involved/find-an-event/walk-all-over-cancer

Additional reporting PA Real Life.

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