University professor, 37, dies from lung cancer after string of doctors dismissed symptoms as 'anxiety and depression'
- Lisa Smirl, 37, saw three doctors with a range of symptoms over a year
- Had been suffering from shortness of breath, weight loss and arm pain
- Despite this, doctors dismissed her symptoms as psychological
- By the time cancer was diagnosed it had spread throughout her body
- Cambridge-educated lecturer died last month, a year after being diagnosed
A university professor died of lung cancer aged 37 after doctors repeatedly dismissed her illness as 'purely psychological'.
Lisa Smirl, 37, saw three different doctors with a range of symptoms over a year-long period but they were dismissed as anxiety and depression.
By the time cancer was finally diagnosed it had spread throughout her body and was terminal.
Dr Smirl, who was married to a medical doctor and lived in Leeds and Brighton, kept a heartbreaking online blog about her treatment.
'What the consultant told us was that not only was it the c-word, but that it was everywhere.
'My brain, my bones, my liver. While in some ways this was a terrible surprise, in another it was a huge relief.
'For the last year I'd been battling a range of bizarre and seemingly disparate symptoms that had forced me in September 2011 to go on sick leave from my job as a lecturer (assistant professor).
'The diagnosis at the time was anxiety and/or depression. And while I was both anxious and depressed, this was due to the increasingly disabling symptoms that my doctor kept insisting were purely psychological.
'So I was actually grateful for a medical diagnosis that confirmed there were objective, physical reasons behind my illness.'
Cambridge-educated Dr Smirl, who was originally from Canada, wrote how she first experienced shortness of breath and wheezing in late 2010, which was wrongly diagnosed as asthma.
By September 2011, Dr Smirl was so sick she was forced to leave work, having been diagnosed with depression and anxiety and put on anti-depressants.
But despite a dramatic weight loss, she claimed three different family doctors refused to consider her symptoms in connection with each other.
In November 2011, she misread her asthma prescription and took ten times the recommended amount - but the drug made no difference to a violent cough.
Her doctor finally sent her for a routine X-ray and within hours, she was given the devastating news that she had cancer.
On her blog, called Stage V - as stage IV of cancer is considered terminal - she describes her journey from 'a woman diagnosed with "anxiety" to one with metastatic cancer'.
Dr Smirl wrote: 'I can't prove it, and this is just my opinion, but I have no doubt in my own mind that my misdiagnosis was in large part due to the fact that I was a middle aged female and that my male doctors were preconceived towards a psychological rather than a physiological diagnosis.
'It is so easy to say that someone's symptoms are "anxiety" related if they are a little bit complicated, unclear or unusual. Don't repeat my mistakes.
'You know when something is wrong. Find another doctor that you connect with and who takes your concerns seriously. Get referrals. Get tested. Refuse to be dismissed.'
Dr Smirl worked in the global studies department at the University of Sussex between 2009 and 2012, but took early retirement.
Despite battling the disease, she maintained an honorary lectureship in the department until her death on February 21.
She also completed a Great North Run to raise funds for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation in November 2012.
He said: 'Lisa was a fantastic colleague and friend, a great teacher and researcher and truly inspirational in the way she dealt with her illness.'
Professor Justin Rosenberg, head of international relations, added: 'Lisa was an outstanding colleague who shared her intellectual and personal vivacity with academics and students alike.'
West Sussex PCT and the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust were unable to confirm that they were involved with Lisa's treatment.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2290128/University-professor-37-dies-lung-cancer-doctors-dismissed-symptoms-anxiety-depression.html#ixzz2N3H63CWE
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook