A healthcare assistant who piled on the pounds due to her cancer diagnosis was told by doctors that she was not ‘fat enough’ to receive weight loss surgery.
Mother-of-one Bryony Bateman, 31, from Fishponds, Bristol, had always been a healthy size 10, but was baffled when she rapidly gained weight and ballooned to a size 18 in 2016.
Tipping the scales at 17st 5lbs, she started feeling lethargic so visited her GP who told her she was ‘lazy and eating junk’, she claimed.
After three months of dieting she noticed a banana-shaped lump on the side of her neck and medics diagnosed a cancerous tumour pressing on her thyroid.
She claims the lump was stopping her body from controlling her metabolism and causing her to pile on the pounds – something the NHS deny.
Bryony Bateman, 31, saw her weight balloon to a size 18 (left) due to a tumour on her thyroid but she has claimed that the NHS said she was not ‘fat enough’ to receive weight-loss surgery
Bryony had an operation to remove the lump and tried to lose weight – but she claimed the NHS refused to fund weight loss surgery because she didn’t have diabetes or high blood pressure.
She claims the bariatric surgery team told her she didn’t meet the criteria and wasn’t ‘fat enough’.
Instead, she was forced to privately fund a £8,295 gastric bypass and she has dropped 7st 5lbs since the operation in January 2019.
She now weighs a healthy 10st again and can slip into a size 10, much as before, with ease. Bryony is now in remission, after having radioactive iodine treatment for two weeks.
The Bristol-based carer said: ‘It was a weird sense of relief finding out the source of my weight gain, but it meant that I had to shift the pounds one way or another.
While in Marbella, Spain, in 2012, the mother-of-one discovered a ‘banana-shaped’ tumour in the side of her neck
‘Once the lump was removed, I wasn’t gaining any more weight, but I still had extra flab to lose. The doctors didn’t deem me ‘fat enough’ for help with it, so I had to go through the process alone.
‘It was painful enough being in remission for cancer, let alone having to improve other aspects of my health without any support.
‘I’m amazed that I shifted the weight, even if it did mean getting a gastric bypass to do so. I felt so abandoned by the doctors, and the mental torment of my weight gain was a real stress in my life.
‘Things need to change so patients like me are better supported to help their side effects.’
She had always been a size 10 so was particularly worried when she started to gain weight rapidly in 2012, aged 23.
Her GP told her she had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 34 – putting her in the obese category – and despite the support of her partner Neal, 35, a baker, she couldn’t shift the weight.
A second visit to the same doctor proved ‘pointless’ as the GP just told her to keep dieting.
But while on holiday in Marbella, Spain, in 2012, Bryony spotted a lump after she tied her hair up to keep cool in the heat.
She went to a new GP who sent her straight to hospital, where doctors ordered a scan and a biopsy, and kept her in for observation while they waited on the results.
‘I was diagnosed with a papillary thyroid cancerous tumour the size of a large watch face, stretching from my neck to my breastbone and shoulder blade,’ she said.
It was pressing against her thyroid – the gland which controls metabolism – and preventing it from properly regulating her weight.
She endured an eight-and-a-half hour operation to remove the thyroid and lymph nodes in July 2012, and had to spend a week in hospital.
She had an operation on the tumour but she then claims she was denied weight-loss surgery
‘I felt like I’d been pushed aside and made to feel like I was making it up,’ she added.
‘I knew there was a reason for the rapid weight gain but didn’t know what until I found that lump.’
Bryony married partner, Neal, in April 2013 and despite warnings her condition would make it hard to conceive due to hormonal imbalances, they went on to have daughter Eva, now five, born in June 2014.
She said: ‘I had to manage it all in stepping stones. First was getting out of hospital, then I had the wedding to plan. Luckily, that absorbed me.’
She was given the all-clear from cancer in 2013, but not having a thyroid meant Bryony still was unable to lose her excess weight normally.
‘Despite being in remission since 2013, there weren’t any resources available to help me out with my size,’ Bryony said.
‘If I had reached a life-threatening size, then help would’ve been available, but I didn’t meet that threshold. My GP enrolled me in weight loss clubs and clinics, but just when I’d lose weight, I’d put it back on in the same week.
‘The clinic also tried to refer me to local bariatric surgery team, but didn’t have a life-limiting condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure so they refused to treat me. I wasn’t fat enough for them.
‘Eventually, I felt as though I couldn’t go on like this. I didn’t want to be this size.’
Bryony said she felt belittled by her GP after they misdiagnosed her cancer initially.
She privately funded a £8,295 gastric bypass and she has dropped 7st 5lbs since the operation
She said: ‘I was completely failed by the system the first time round. Then when I did get my diagnosis, doctors picked and chose what aspects of my cancer they were going to help me with.
‘I was treated differently for my weight, after already being alienated since by cancer diagnosis. I came invisible to most and hit rock bottom.’
In 2018, five years after initially being denied weight management treatment, she was able to privately fund a gastric bypass.
She said: ‘I had the procedure in January 2019 and my life has been different since that day. Fast forward to now, I’ve proved to my medical team that I can and will lose weight if I am given the right tools.’
After dropping to a healthy 10st, she now wishes for the NHS to help more people with side effects like weight loss, rather than just targeting the cancer itself.
‘I’ve lost 7st 5lbs since the op, I’m back at a size 10 and my mental wellbeing has improved dramatically,’ she said.
‘I’ve got Bryony back again.’
NHS England said: ‘Thyroid cancer is not recognised as causing weight gain as it does not impact on thyroid function.
‘Certain conditions would have to be met before a gastric bypass could be offered as per NICE guidelines.’