Top wildlife artist Georgina Gibbons from Southampton diagnosed with incurable cancer

Daily Echo: Georgina Gibbons Georgina Gibbons

FOUR months ago she was riding high having been recognised as being at the top of her game as an artist.

Talented Georgina Gibbons had won the prestigious BBC Wildlife Magazine Artist of the Year 2013 and was counting down the days to the African safari that was her prize.

But just weeks before the 53-year-old, who lives in Harefield, Southampton, was due to set off on the trip she began suffering from agonising pain in her spine.

In remission from breast cancer she was given the terrible news that she was suffering with incurable bone cancer.

The crippling disease commonly follows on from breast cancer – but Georgina believes her GP, chiropractor and osteopath misread her symptoms as back pain for three years.

‘Let down’ She said: “I feel let down. I had never even heard of bone cancer.

“Had I known about the link with breast cancer I would have insisted on exploratory scans probably two years ago.

“Now it may be too late to contain the cancer successfully.

“I want to make other breast cancer sufferers aware. Patients can’t be proactive if they are not aware and these days you need to be proactive.”

Having recovered from the trauma of breast cancer she decided to nurture her artistic talents, which led to her beating more than 1,400 contestants to win the renowned BBC award for her ultra realistic painting of lionfish called Dangerous Waters.

But as she prepared to jet off to her prize trip to Botswana she began suffering shooting pains in her back that left her in agony and unable to walk.

She said: “I was in so much pain I was desperate to find the cause.”

For the past three years she had been repeatedly told she had back pain. But with her symptoms worsening she arranged a private MRI scan, which showed bone cancer. Further examinations found the disease was in an advanced stage, spreading to parts of her spine, pelvis and ribs.

It is unclear how long she will live but she hopes her medication will help slow down the spread of the illness and manage the painful symptoms that leave her struggling to walk without the aid of crutches.

What she misses most is walking her beloved German shepherd dog, Starsky, whom she says has become protective of her as her illness worsens.

She said: “He has suddenly become more jumpy and started barking at people as they walk past.”

Yet despite being robbed of the ability to drive into the countryside, she continues to paint wildlife and commissioned paintings of pets.

Georgina’s goal now is to make the most of her life. But she said she also wants to make patients, their family and friends and importantly healthcare professionals aware of the link between bone cancer and breast cancer.

She said: “I am cross about it but I don’t want to name or shame. They did not know or did not join the dots together. That is what’s frustrating.

“I do sympathise with GPs because so many people present with back pain but I think GPs should know that people who have had breast cancer are at risk of bone cancer.”

Comments (1)

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9:26pm Sat 11 Jan 14

purplejeannie says...

Dear Georgina
My heart goes out to you. Make looking after yourself your top priority and always listen to your body. Bone cancer (spine and hip) are known as “hot spots” for breast cancer to travel to and your GP should have been much more vigilant because of your background. We all think GPs see a lot of breast cancer when in fact they see very little. It appears to me that GP training is inadequate (before and after breast cancer) and many are out of date. I am a four year misdiagnosed breast cancer lady who, despite asking for a mammogram on three visits to my GP over a four year period, I failed to get referred for further investigation. I know plenty of other young women in the same situation – some no longer with us and could have been. My experience has left me with very little faith in GPs. My advice to anyone who has had breast cancer would be to take any concerns back to the hospital where they were treated. My breast care nurse tells me her door is always open and I have seen her a few times over the last couple of years. I hope your artistic abilities help you to come to terms with what has happened. Early detection saves lives and we should all be able to have access to well-informed competent GPs.
Dear Georgina My heart goes out to you. Make looking after yourself your top priority and always listen to your body. Bone cancer (spine and hip) are known as “hot spots” for breast cancer to travel to and your GP should have been much more vigilant because of your background. We all think GPs see a lot of breast cancer when in fact they see very little. It appears to me that GP training is inadequate (before and after breast cancer) and many are out of date. I am a four year misdiagnosed breast cancer lady who, despite asking for a mammogram on three visits to my GP over a four year period, I failed to get referred for further investigation. I know plenty of other young women in the same situation – some no longer with us and could have been. My experience has left me with very little faith in GPs. My advice to anyone who has had breast cancer would be to take any concerns back to the hospital where they were treated. My breast care nurse tells me her door is always open and I have seen her a few times over the last couple of years. I hope your artistic abilities help you to come to terms with what has happened. Early detection saves lives and we should all be able to have access to well-informed competent GPs. purplejeannie

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