After his deadly cancer was misdiagnosed as back pain, a young West London father was given only two months to live. Darren Mulqueen, 34, was in the army and fit and healthy 18 months ago.
The Ealing father of two awoke in excruciating pain and, with the help of girlfriend Vicky, decided to go to the doctor. He was told that his pain was muscular and that he should take paracetamol to relieve it.
However, after months of going back and forth to his doctor, nothing had changed. It was actually worse.
Darren returned home from the army in March of this year and took his first trip abroad to Granada. He ended up in hospital the day after he returned to British soil because the pain had become unbearable. Doctors eventually recommended a CT scan, and Darren was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
“We were all in shock, none of us saw it coming,” Darren’s sister Michelle Vassell, 40, from Cricklewood, explained. “You trust your GP and you think you have no reason to question their diagnosis; they’re the experts. So we never thought it would be cancer.”
Darren was soon unable to sleep on his back and had to sleep sitting up. Weight fell off him, his appetite diminished, and scars and burns covered his back from using a hot water bottle to relieve pain. In terms of treatment, Darren became so ill that chemotherapy was out of the question due to excessive vomiting.
In July, Darren decided to have another scan. He and his family had to wait two weeks to learn the outcome, and when they did, they discovered Darren’s cancer had spread to his liver. Doctors said it was terminal and gave him two to three months to live since his diagnosis in July.
“We are heartbroken and devastated,” Michelle continued. “Darren is the most amazing brother, son, dad and uncle, and we can’t imagine life without him.
“The other day Darren called up his army sergeant and the man just broke down in tears. Anyone who gets to know Darren, even if they haven’t known him for long, are drawn to him. I really wish he can stay with us longer and make it to his 35th Birthday on December 7.”
Darren has not left the hospital since his diagnosis in July. He is on a morphine pump every two hours, which only relieves his pain for an hour. Darren is also eating less because his bowels have stopped working due to the cancer. And, while he can sleep, he cannot lie on his back.
The entire family is currently struggling financially. Darren, who has been unable to work since becoming ill, is concerned that he will not be able to provide for his two young children.
“Before this happened Darren got a bike on loan however he’s had to give that up because he can’t pay it off,” Michelle said. “He now can’t pay his phone bill which is our main way of staying in contact with him when we’re not visiting the hospital.
“And I wish I could help but I am on maternity leave at the moment and don’t have an income. Darren’s mum also gave up her job to visit him every day and look after him in hospital.”
Darren and his Macmillan nurse applied for Universal Credit shortly after being diagnosed in July. He has yet to receive a response from the Department of Work and Pensions.
Michelle and her family are raising funds to give Darren the best send-off possible and to leave money in his will for his daughter, 10, and son, 13.
“I spoke to Darren this morning and he said to me the one thing he wants people to know and for people to share with their friends and family is please, please go to the hospital if you have pain in your back or tummy or anywhere that doesn’t feel right,” Michelle said. “Don’t take no for an answer. Doctors can get it wrong and Darren is proof of that.
“My mum is suffering with pain in her back and has booked in a test. We are all going to get a test.”