A GRAPEFRUIT-SIZED tumour that killed an internationally acclaimed opera singer could have been spotted earlier – but there was no guarantee doctors would have been able to save her life, an inquest heard.
Cecilia Smiga, 38, a former pupil of Ysgol Morgan Llwyd in Wrexham, graced some of opera’s finest concert halls and had sung at leading sporting events.
She was head of music performance and performing arts at the Berkshire-based LVS Ascot School and her parents, Mike and Allyson are from Cefnybedd.
An inquest heard that for several months she had been complaining about shortness of breath and tiredness.
After first being prescribed anti-biotics by her GP, she underwent a CT scan at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey last February.
Her condition worsened, but the tumour, which measured 10cm by 7cm and formed behind Miss Smiga’s heart, was not spotted by doctors until five days before she died on April 9. Ms Smiga was finally admitted to the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, but nothing could be done to save her.
Her father, Michael Smiga, told Westminster Coroner’s Court his daughter had been ill since August 2012 and that there had been various instances in the months after where he had seen her short of breath and even vomiting.
“In March 2013 I collected her to go to the England v Wales Six Nations match.
“She parked her car at the station so she wouldn’t have to walk up the hill again,” he said.
“There was another instance when I took her back to Ascot. She was walking up the stairs to her flat and she began violently vomiting. I had never seen anything quite so bizarre.”
Dr Shirley Radcliffe said doctors probably should have realised there was a tumour behind her heart long before it was eventually found. But she said there was no evidence to suggest doctors would have found a way to save her life.
Dr Radcliffe said in her narrative verdict: “This was a highly unusual tumour and a very rapid deterioration in her condition.
“She strikes me as the sort of person who did not wish to make a fuss. She was a brave soul who did not want to trouble anyone.
“Doctors had difficulty in understanding the underlying condition and she had a lack of response to conventional treatment.”
After various treatments – including a spell in hospital in Wrexham – she became severely ill and went to Frimley Park Hospital.
Doctors thought it was a pulmonary embolism but the scan revealed a tumour.
Dr Radcliffe added: “This was a very complex situation but one could only think that an earlier diagnosis would give a possibility of a better outcome but it is not possible to say for sure in her case.”
Ms Smiga studied at the Flanders Opera studio in Belgium, the Zürich International Opera Studio and the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.
Her many acclaimed roles included Carlotta in Phantom of the Opera in the West End and Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte for Flanders Opera in Gent and Antwerp.
Among her many honours, Ms Smiga was a member of the 2011 Wrexham National Eisteddfod music committee.