Schoolgirl, 15, with months to live told terminal cancer might be ‘stress’

Olivia Maunder was told to try a mindfulness app, even though she was 'screaming in pain' from terminal cancer
Olivia Maunder was told to try a mindfulness app, even though she was 'screaming in pain' from terminal cancer

A 15-year-old schoolgirl with just months to live was told by doctors that her rare cancer might be “stress” and that she should try using a “mindfulness” app.

Doctors failed to recognise that the schoolgirl had terminal cancer and suggested that she try an app to cope with her “indescribable agony”, she and her family have said.

Olivia Maunder, 15, began experiencing some light pain in her lower back when she was 13 in 2020, but did not see a GP until January 2021 after her pain worsened over the Christmas period.

She found that her symptoms steadily deteriorated to the point where she was taken “screaming in pain” to accident and emergency.

She was later diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare form of cancer affecting the bones and surrounding tissue. She now has just months to live.

However, when she had an MRI scan of her pelvis in March 2021, doctors at Frimley Park Hospital in Camberley, Surrey, missed her tumour and diagnosed her with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), which is thought to be caused by the body reacting abnormally to injury.

The teenager, from Bordon, Hampshire, said that she was even told she was “mirroring” her mother’s pain from back problems.

“I wasn’t being treated at all, I just existed in pain,” she said.

‘Extremely angry’

Her mother, Carol Rolfe, 52, said: “We told the doctors so many times how much pain she was in.

“She was screaming in pain, but we were asked: ‘Have you tried a mindfulness app?’ and were told it was stress. They wanted her to be quiet and not disturb others.”

Following the CRPS diagnosis, Olivia said she was relieved but became frustrated when no pain relief was prescribed.

“I knew that I was in pain and that this wasn’t in my head,” she told the Daily Mail.

As her pain worsened over time, her family began to question her diagnosis and a second MRI was arranged after her mother spoke to an expert about the condition.

At this point, a tumour was discovered that was so extensive that surgery was no longer possible.

“When the doctors said they had found a tumour in my pelvis, it felt like an out-of-body experience. I was in shock,” said Olivia.

A serious incident report was carried out following the missed diagnosis and uncovered serious failings in Olivia’s care.

Following chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment, she was able to return to school in April 2022, but her condition has since worsened and she was recently told she has months to live.

She added that she was “extremely angry” afterwards.

“They told me I had a tumour three months after they said I was making it all up and had been suffering terribly,” she said.


The family has instructed Devonshires Claims solicitors to take legal action against the trust.

Jeanette Van-Cauter, a specialist medical negligence lawyer from the firm, said Olivia was “one of the bravest young people I have met, and her story is one of the most tragic”.

She added that the situation was “unacceptable and I believe that those responsible should be held to account.”

Dr Timothy Ho, medical director of Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are very sorry for the considerable distress caused by the delay in diagnosing Olivia’s cancer and have met with Olivia and her family to share the results of our thorough investigation.

“We are committed to learning from the investigation and improving services and will support Olivia and her family as best we can at this difficult time.”

Olivia’s sister Vickie has created a fundraising page for her, raising more than £13,000 so far.

She said she created the page because “we aren’t a wealthy family and we would love to be able to give her as much as she wants to try to make the last few months of her life as happy as they can be, and to enable the family to spend as much time as possible with her in her last months”.