NHS nurse, 46, who thought cough was long Covid learns she is dying of cancer


An NHS nurse and mother of two who worked during the pandemic has been diagnosed with terminal cancer – after thinking her cough was the result of prolonged Covid.

Victoria Puar, 46, who worked as a nurse at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, says she contracted the virus during a camping trip with her family in August 2021 and then had a terrible cough for months afterwards.

Although she and her daughter Lydia, eight, did not suffer as much as the rest of the family, Victoria believed the cough was the result of prolonged Covid.

After being told by a GP to come back three months later, the standard procedure for long covid coughs, she was finally sent for tests earlier this year.

They eventually showed that she has stage four adenocarcinoma – a cancer that develops in the lining of the organs.

It had already spread from her lungs to her heart, and doctors discovered that she was actually suffering from heart failure.

Victoria Puar, 46, is from Castle Bromwich in the West Midlands and has a loving husband Ben 46, and two children, Joseph, 11, and Lydia, eight

Victoria said, 'My life has been turned upside down.  I hope the chemotherapy and immunotherapy will give me a few more years.  that's what I pray for'

Victoria said, ‘My life has been turned upside down. I hope the chemotherapy and immunotherapy will give me a few more years. that’s what I pray for’

Victoria, from Castle Bromwich, West Midlands, is now urging anyone who is coughing to get it checked out as soon as possible, and colleagues have set up a JustGiving page to raise money for her family.

So far, the page has raised £14,000 and any additional money will be used to ease the financial strain on her and her family while she is being treated.

The NHS nurse lives with her husband and Ben, 46, an X-ray photographer, and their two children, Joseph, 11 and Lydia.

She said, “My life is turned upside down. It’s crazy, just totally crazy.

“I hope the chemotherapy and immunotherapy will give me a few more years. I pray for that.

“If anyone is coughing, please, please go take a look and don’t assume it’s just a Covid cough.

“I never thought for a moment that my cough would turn out to be cancer.

“There are a lot of people who are coughing and you just don’t realize it.

“You don’t know if it’s anything more serious, so please get it checked.”

After the family recovered from the coronavirus in August 2021, Victoria returned to work at Birmingham Children’s Hospital as a nurse – finding herself still coughing.

She said: ‘Ben and Joseph were pretty bad with Covid-19, but Lydia and I weren’t all that bad – I was just a little weak and coughing.

‘I just kept coughing.

“When I called my GP in October 2021 they told me not to come right away because it was a Covid cough and you need time to get over it, so give it three months.

She says she doesn’t blame her GP or staff because “nobody knows exactly how long Covid is or how to treat it because it’s so new.”

The family caught Covid-19 on a camping trip in August 2021 - after which Victoria found herself still coughing

The family caught Covid-19 on a camping trip in August 2021 – after which Victoria found herself still coughing

“I kept working while I got negatives on my PCR tests and I didn’t feel bad. I just kept coughing.”

Victoria continued to work on the front lines during the pandemic.

Colleagues have described her as a ‘very special person’, adding: ‘Like many NHS heroes, Victoria has devoted a great deal of time, hard work and dedication to the NHS, especially during the pandemic, losing precious time with her family. †

It wasn’t until around February 2022 – six months after she contracted Covid-19 – that Victoria was sent for a chest X-ray with her cough still present after her GP began to worry about the sound of her breathing.

The X-ray showed inflammation on her chest and Victoria was given steroids and inhalers with doctors who believed she may have developed asthma as a result of the coronavirus.

The medication reduced the inflammation on her chest and Victoria was sent for another chest X-ray where doctors saw a shadow on her lower left lung.

Victoria then underwent an urgent CT scan, a PET scan, an EBUS procedure, biopsies and blood work to find out what the shadow might mean.

The CT scan revealed she had fluid buildup around her heart, with an echocardiogram on June 9 showing that Victoria did indeed have heart failure.

The mother of two was rushed to the theater where they drained 410 ml of liquid from her heart – more liquid than in a can of Coke.

The procedure meant Victoria could breathe more clearly, but she was eventually diagnosed with stage four adenocarcinoma two weeks ago on June 14.

Despite the long wait for a diagnosis, she says she doesn’t blame her GP or the NHS – because she too thought she had Covid for a long time.

Victoria said: ‘They thought it was stage one at first, but then they found it had spread from my lungs to my heart and to a lymph node on my collarbone, so it’s stage four cancer.

“It was horrible going through all these tests because I’m a pediatric nurse and I was told I had a pericardial effusion for which we would immediately rush our young patients to the theater to drain the fluid.

“I seemed to be more concerned about the fluid than they were because I’m used to treating kids for it, but I’m an adult so it’s a little different because an adult body can hold more fluid.

“The inflammation hid the shadow behind it, so without the steroids that reduced it, they would never have seen the cancer there. We don’t know whether the inflammation was caused by Covid or the cancer.’

Victoria will now undergo two courses of chemotherapy and one course of immunotherapy with her first chemotherapy session today (8/7).

As Victoria prepares for her first round of chemotherapy, she is urging anyone with a cough to see their GP immediately and not dismiss it as potentially long-term Covid.

Her JustGiving page can be found here.

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