‘I’m 42 with pancreatic cancer and coronavirus means I can’t even have a hug from my daughter’

It was a lasagne that made Bryony Thomas realise she was seriously unwell. She had spent years trying to work out why she was constantly tired but had always come back with a clean bill of health when her thyroid, iron levels and sleep were tested.

In December, Bryony, 42, and her husband Tom had some friends over to their Bristol home. Tom cooked a lasagne and Bryony ate a decent portion of it. The next morning, she woke up feeling nauseous. Everyone else felt OK, which made her think it wasn’t food poisoning. While her friends went out for breakfast, she stayed in bed feeling ill.

She couldn’t bring herself to eat for a week, in which time other weird symptoms started to appear: her urine was much darker than normal and her stools were colourless. Her skin turned so yellow that she “looked like Lisa Simpson”, she says.

Bryony called 111, and after a series of tests she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the least survived cancer in the UK: only one in four people in England live for a year after diagnosis.

She describes getting the news as a “bomb going off” in her family’s life. Bryony had lost her own mother when she was five years old, so was particularly aware of the effect that her illness would have on her own eight-year-old daughter Eleni. “She asked if I would die and I said everyone is working to do their best to make sure that doesn’t happen, but it might do”, she recalls.

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