Lynne Fernquest: This is not a blame game, but we would like answers
The inquest into Natasha Simmonds' death makes for heartbreaking reading from start to finish.
The death of a young girl at the hands of such an horrendous disease is by itself the stuff of nightmares, but it's hard to believe that the "quality" of her care has not come into question.
To recap, the beautiful teenager may have been suffering from cancer through her spine, brain stem, brain and face, and also a tumour which was wrapped around her spine, for up to two years before her death. The inquest heard that 24 appointments in the last year of her life with four different paediatricians, six GPs and three accident and emergency doctors had failed to diagnose the condition.
Teenage cancers are thankfully very rare and "only" seven young people are diagnosed in the UK every day. However, surely headaches, numbness in the limbs, back pains, visual disturbances, personality change and vomiting over a sustained period should have alerted someone?
Teenage Cancer Action Week runs from October 14-20 and the charity wants more awareness of the symptoms. They want parents to feel empowered to keep on going back to the doctors if they feel their issues are not being solved.
Ironically and sadly, Natasha had some of those symptoms and she certainly went back to the doctors – 24 times.
Newspaper editors are not doctors, but what we do very well is give a voice to those who would otherwise not be able to get that "publicity" themselves.