Dad, 37, 'fobbed off' by NHS given weeks to live as cancer mistaken for indigestion

Joe Snape (centre) pictured with his children Rory (top right), Millie (left), Freddie, and Libby
-Credit: (Image: Laura Poyser)

A dad-of-four has been given just weeks to live after NHS medics failed to spot he had cancer for 18 months. Joe Snape said he’d been 'fobbed off' by local NHS services since first visiting his GP practice, Moorlands Medical Centre, with stomach pains last year.

The 37-year-old, from Leek, was then given the devastating news that he had oesophageal cancer at the Royal Stoke University Hospital at the beginning of March.

He was told he had three weeks to live - eight weeks ago. The former paver, who lives with his partner and children, had visited Royal Stoke's A&E department at as well as making calls to the West Midlands Ambulance Service.

After feeling failed by NHS services in North Staffordshire, Joe decided to visit A&E in Macclesfield. He has also chosen to undergo chemotherapy at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester as opposed to the cancer centre at Royal Stoke.

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Joe, who has lost nearly four stone, said: “I went to the doctors 18 months ago with really bad pains in my stomach and I kept being fobbed off. The doctor told me the stomach pain was indigestion.

“Another time, I had chest pains that were creating pressure in my chest and I thought I was having a heart attack. The doctor said to drive myself to hospital even though I thought I was having a heart attack - it’s ridiculous. I’ve been there [to the doctors] loads of times.

“I collapsed one night and called an ambulance. I was told the wait would be five hours and my brother said ‘Don’t worry, he’ll be dead then’. He rushed me to the Royal Stoke A&E and I couldn’t even get in because they were so busy, so I went to Macclesfield A&E and I was put on a drip and seen within an hour.

“I was cut open and Royal Stoke diagnosed me with oesophageal cancer and told me I have about three weeks to live, but that was eight weeks ago so I’ve beaten their assumptions and estimations. It’s incurable so I’ve just got to try to keep it at bay, but I feel like if doctors had picked up on it 18 months ago then it might not have been incurable.

“My cancer has grown downward into my stomach from the oesophagus, and out the side of my stomach like an L shape. It’s all in my lymph nodes so they can’t operate. One doctor said I’d need a stent, and then a second doctor said I couldn’t have a stent because it would just fall straight out.

“I’m having chemotherapy at The Christie i and they’re really good. In just half an hour I had more information and advice from the doctor there than I have in two months from the Royal Stoke. I have to go for the chemo once every three weeks over a nine-week period.

“The Christie is the best. I couldn’t believe how many people were in there. It was quite daunting but the staff were brilliant. I’m on Ward Four, which sees 130 patients a day. Plus, it’s free parking at The Christie, I would be spending £40 or £50 at the Royal Stoke in parking fees.

“Even though I’m having chemo in Manchester, the Royal Stoke rang the following Tuesday [May 21] and said I need to come in for chemo - they don’t communicate with each other because I’d already started on May 17.”

Talking about his experience with cancer, Joe added: “Some days I can eat, some days I can’t. After I had my first session of chemo on the Friday, I was OK on the Saturday but not the Sunday. I felt seasick, which reminds me of being on a boat as a kid because I used to go sea fishing with my dad. I’m diabetic too.

“I was told that it’s very strange to see this type of cancer in a man my age. I’ve gone working seven days a week to not working at all. I was a tarmacer and really enjoyed it. I’m going to pay for my own coffin and my own funeral too.

“My friends and family are doing loads of fundraising for me, including doing up a campervan, and my sister’s on about shaving her head. My friends were being dead secretive about the camper van, but it will mean I can go to Wales and places with my family on holiday.

“We’re having an auction because my friend is mates with John Fury, so there’s signed gloves and things up for auction, as well as Stoke FC donating a signed shirt and ball. JCB donated meat for BBQs too.”

Joe Snape (right) pictured with John Fury and a friend
Joe Snape (right) pictured with John Fury and a friend -Credit:Julie Ward

A Go Fund Me was set up for Joe by Julie Ward with a goal of £20,000 which has now been exceeded. She wrote: “Thank you to everyone that has helped us to achieve this . Joe received his camper van on Saturday [May 25], it was handed over very kindly by Tyson Fury’s dad John. What an absolute gentleman he was.

“Without you kind people this would not have been possible - thank you. Joe and his family haven’t been home since they received the camper. They are away at the moment in Conway in all this rain but still making memories .

“This Saturday, we are having an auction to raise a little bit of money for Joe and his family. There will be food and music and some good things being auctioned off. You are all welcome. I think Joe would love to thank you in person for what you all have achieved.”

UHNM Deputy Chief Nurse Jane Holmes said: “Our Clinical Nurse Specialists have been liaising with Mr Snape and other healthcare professionals over the past few weeks to understand his treatment decisions and he has declined chemotherapy at UHNM.

“We take any concerns raised by patients seriously and I would encourage Mr Snape to speak to the Patient Advice and Liaison Team if we can investigate his concerns further.”

A spokesperson for the Staffordshire and Stoke Integrated Care Board said: “Our thoughts are with the patient. We are committed to ensuring all patient concerns are dealt with appropriately. Due to patient confidentiality, we cannot discuss individual cases.

"If anyone needs help or has similar concerns, they can make a complaint via the practice or contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) for support. PALS is dedicated to providing support, resolving concerns, and offering guidance to ensure the best possible care and service. You can contact them by phone at 0808 196 8861 or via email at"

The address for the auction is Gypsy Lane. Freehay, ST10 1RA and will be starting around 1pm. To donate to Joe’s Go Fund Me, click here.

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