Cancer survivor in ‘complete limbo’ as scan cancelled due to cyberattack

Mother of two ‘frustrated’ as key hospital test cancelled due to hacking of HSE systems

A cancer survivor has said she has been left “in complete limbo”, after her hospital tests were cancelled due to the health service cyberattack, which has resulted in a curtailment of appointments.

Carole Troy, from Co Waterford, was due to go into hospital for a scan this week, but it was postponed following the ransomware hack of the Health Service Executive's IT systems.

The mother of two was diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer in February 2020, and went through chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy in the middle of the pandemic.

Ms Troy was then placed on a drug to help prevent the cancer returning, a side effect of which can be lower heart function.

Following tests in March, doctors found her heart function had dropped, so she was taken off the drug and placed on other medication to improve her heart rate.

She was due to have an echocardiogram, a test to examine her heart function, on Tuesday morning in University Hospital Waterford.

“I was looking towards tomorrow, that I would hopefully find out my heart function has improved and I could restart [the drug],” she said.

Following the cyberattack, she was informed her test had been cancelled and due to the uncertainty the hospital did not yet know when it would go ahead, she said.

Having come through a cancer diagnosis, “your biggest fear is recurrence”, she said. “The drug I was getting helps to reduce the chance of recurrence by 60 per cent.”

‘Overthinking’ aches

Ms Troy said that, having been off the drug since earlier this year, she was “overthinking every pain, every ache” as a possible return of the disease.

“This drug gives me a big chance of being here for my kids when they grow up,” Ms Troy said.

The cancellation of her scan had left her “frustrated and disappointed” and she felt her life was “paused” while she awaited the test.

“This has just left me in complete limbo … I don’t know when I’ll get the scan at the moment,” she said.

The advice from the hospital was to call back each day to check if there had been any changes, she said.

Undergoing treatment for cancer during the Covid-19 pandemic had been “incredibly difficult”, for her and the family, she said. “On top of the pandemic, a cancer diagnosis has been tough.”

Her family had “essentially stayed at Level 5 right throughout the last year”, given she was at greater risk if she contracted the virus, she said.

She received her Covid-19 vaccine in recent weeks, and had been able to visit her parents for the first time in a long while, she added.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times