A man was diagnosed with leukaemia two months after having been told by doctors that he had tonsillitis.
Ben Peters, from Swindon, said he went through a hellish few months, where he was unable to eat and struggled to breathe when his tonsils swelled up to the size of golf balls.
Because of the pandemic, the 22-year-old says, doctors were reluctant to do a full physical examination of his throat, instead he had to show his GP a photo of his tonsils.
And after four courses of antibiotics and still having not recovered from the bout of – what he had been assured was – tonsillitis, Ben says he knew something was wrong.
He said: “I was struggling to eat and was working up to 40 hours a week in constant pain.
“I had to keep phoning in sick, ultimately risking my job.”
Adding: “I was taking painkillers constantly and would go whole days with just liquids because I couldn’t bear the pain.”
By Christmas, the B&M worker says he was done with feeling so ill and called 111 at 3am on Boxing Day.
He was then rushed by ambulance to local Great Western Hospital, where, he says, doctors continued to insist that it was just tonsillitis.
However, on the first Tuesday after Christmas, a doctor gave him the news that he had cancer.
After undergoing bone marrow and blood tests, medics said they were concerned it could be caused by a lymphoma.
“When they told me and my partner, my whole world just shattered,” Ben recalls.
“I can remember being told and feeling like I was being pushed back against my chair and I couldn’t get up. It was the worst feeling.”
His partner, Mark, then had to inform Ben’s family, who live more than 100 miles away in Wales, of the news.
His mum, Hayley, was distraught, but Ben says they have been keeping in touch over FaceTime.
Following the news, Ben was transferred to Oxford for treatment, spending 40 days in hospital.
And although he was “frustrated” by the delay due to the initial diagnosis, Ben has praised the “amazing” NHS staff, and he is now in remission and has been allowed to return home to Mark for a few weeks.
Though he still has more treatment to undergo, Ben says he is keeping his head up and trying to stay positive.
“Before the cancer I was working too much and eating unhealthily,” he said.
“I had been living in a trance. To many this is the worst news possible – to find out at the age of 22 that you have cancer – but for me this is going to be the making of me.
“When you face difficult times, know that challenges are not sent to destroy you. They’re sent to promote, increase and strengthen you.”
Ben is now trying to raise money to support the staff who cared for him. You can donate here.