Everyday cancer patients are being failed by our health system as signs of the deadly disease are ignored or misdiagnosed. As a result, lives are being lost. In a five-day series health reporter Emma Russell tells the tragic stories of some of the people who have been let down by the system.
A loving father-of-five, whose wife was battling her own cancer, was told by several health professionals his severe symptoms and alarming family history were nothing to be concerned about.
Now, Craig Gutry is dying of bowel cancer.
The 55-year-old Foxton man described to his doctor the agony he was in while driving to work with an "uncomfortable bottom" but was told it was nothing serious.
Then, after four months of "constant abdominal pain" Gutry managed to get an appointment with a surgeon who noted his "swollen testicles the size of grapefruits" - a sign of blood clot and possible cancer - but was again told "it was nothing serious".
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"He was referred for a colonoscopy and was given painkillers for the time being and just struggled on," his wife Jennie said.
Less than a month later, on Christmas Day, he rushed to hospital in chronic pain and was forced to wait five hours to be seen by a doctor. At that time he had still not been seen for a colonoscopy.
At ED, doctors examined him but couldn't find anything so sent him home with laxatives and pain relief.
Another month later, Gutry finally had his colonoscopy and it was there doctors discovered he had an obstructed bowel and they couldn't get the scope up because the tumour was in the way.
He was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer that had spread to his lymph nodes, lungs and liver.
Jennie said it was incredibly frustrating because his cancer might not have spread if the several doctors who saw him before his diagnosis had taken him seriously and if he hadn't waited so long for the colonoscopy.
"We had planned to grow old together and travel the world in our retirement but now our dreams have been shattered."
The Foxton couple want change. They say these delays shouldn't be happening and the colonoscopy should have taken place as soon as he presented to his doctor with serious symptoms.
Failings at a primary care level
Unacceptable waiting times
The inequalities based on age, income and location
What needs to happen?