Over 18 months ago, 29-year-old Becca Smith was given just weeks to live but when the biopsy results revealed the ALK+ mutation a whole new line of life-lengthening treatments opened up. She’s now sharing her story to ensure other people newly diagnosed with lung cancer have a biopsy as soon as possible.
I vividly remember the moment I was told I had cancer. Two doctors came up to me and they closed the curtain. I knew then that the news wasn’t going to be good but nothing could have prepared me for what they said. He just looked at me and said “It’s cancer and it’s spread everywhere. There’s nothing we can do.”
The terror was instant. I was holding onto my mum screaming, “Don’t let me die. Don’t let me die, Mum”
Probably the reason why I’m still here today is down to the biopsy that I had of my back which is when they found the ALK+ mutation and the treatment that was available to me. Without it, I think I would have died.
This was back in March 2020. I’d been suffering from months of back pain. Being a personal trainer, I was really worried that the pain was down to a slipped disc. I had physio. I had chiropractors work on me. But then, when I was on a yoga course in Birmingham, I completely lost my vision. Everything just went black and I had horrific migraines.
I went for an eye test and that’s where they saw haemorrhaging at the back of my eyes. I could tell the optician looked concerned and she sent me to get more checks. I went to the Countess of Chester Hospital and that’s why they did the first assessment on me. I could just see the doctor’s face dropped and she just said you need to stay in and it went from there.
A very important phone call
After we got the initial cancer diagnosis, my mum was determined that I wasn’t going to spend my final days in hospital so, as a family, they brought me home. I had a 24-hour care. I had palliative nurses coming out every day. I was bed bound and still on oxygen at this point. I wasn’t able to feed myself or anything. I had a week of my friends coming to say their goodbyes.
It was about two weeks after that when my mum got a phone call from Walton hospital where my biopsy had been sent from my back. The lady on the phone was jumping for joy apparently. She explained they had found this ALK+ mutation. We didn’t really understand what that meant at the time but knew it must be good news and there was a different energy in the house after that phone call.
So far, all my scans for the past 18 months have been coming back better and better and better every time. Everything has been shrinking rapidly. The lung cancer has gone from my brain, which in hindsight was obviously the reason behind my lose of vision. I’m left with one little one on my spine and one lump on my lung and now I’m in a stable condition.
I tell myself that my lung cancer is like a chronic illness. There’s people that live with MS. There’s people that that live with this. I take tablets every day but my life continues.