14th April 2022

Branwen’s lung cancer story

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When former headteacher Branwen was diagnosed with lung cancer, she felt lost. All of the information she found gave such a dark outlook on lung cancer, that was until she found Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation…

“I had been going to and from medical professionals from January 2017 as I’d felt unwell for some time. My main symptoms were tiredness and swelling of my hands and legs.

After 18 months of investigations; a CT scan in April 2018 where the possibility of cancer was mentioned, to results of biopsy and PET scan in June 2018, the news just seemed to get bleaker and bleaker. My partner Julie and I just thought I was going to die.

When finally diagnosed I was shocked and very, very scared. I couldn’t quite believe it was real and that this was my life.

Luckily, I was diagnosed at stage 3b, meaning surgery was possible. I underwent the removal of half of my lung and 18 chest lymph nodes. I also had three months chemotherapy and 35 refractions of radiotherapy.

The treatment I had wasn’t without side effects. After surgery, there was some pain due to muscle and nerve damage; I still experience some shortness of breath, particularly when exercising.  

I suffered with a lot of brain fog and fatigue following chemotherapy, it is getting better as time passes but it is still a factor of my everyday life.”

An emotional journey

“I spent a lot of time crying and being very angry at the beginning of my lung cancer journey. We felt very out of control and struggled to navigate a system that we didn’t understand.

I felt quite lost. I was diagnosed much younger than a lot of people and struggled with the lack of information and support available for people living with lung cancer – but then we found Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

When I was first diagnosed, I knew nothing about lung cancer. I was told not to Google anything – but of course I did. The information concerning living with and more than likely dying from lung cancer was all just negative. However, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation’s website helped me learn about what treatment is really like and that it is possible to live well, it gave me hope and hooks to hang on to. 

Prior to my diagnosis, I was a primary school headteacher. I loved that job but unfortunately needed to retire early due to my inability to return to a full-time post. This was tough aged 45. 

I do struggle at times with the impact that a late cancer diagnosis has had on my ability to live a ‘normal life’ – I’m very sad that cancer has taken away my career that I loved.” 

Support along the way

“Julie has walked every step of this journey with me. My mum and stepdad were also fantastic, they came down from North Wales and helped during my treatment so that Julie could continue to work. I’ve also privately sought out therapy to get that extra bit of support to cope with my diagnosis.

What I’ve found is that people seem to treat those with other cancers differently to those of us with lung cancer. There’s still unfortunately a real prejudice surrounding the disease, I know this is something that Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation have been working to change throughout their campaigning.

After surgery, the prognosis was that the lung cancer was 60% likely to reappear in next two years.

It has now been nearly four years since my diagnosis. I have yearly check-up scans and thankfully at the moment, I currently have no evidence of disease (NED) so I’m not on any treatment.

With Spring here now, I’m concentrating on enjoying going out walking, cycling and trips in our motorhome.”