23rd June 2021

Brian Spotted the Difference

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When Brian noticed he had clubbed fingers, he had no idea that it was a symptom of lung cancer. Fortunately, his doctor did and he was immediately referred to a respiratory specialist. After his quick diagnosis, Brian retrained as a personal trainer, specialising in helping other cancer patients get fit for surgery or support them through their rehabilitation – all with just one lung!

“My one and only symptom was clubbing of the fingers. This is where all your fingers swell up and when you put your fingers together you can’t see a V. That was it. I wasn’t feeling ill. The opposite in fact – I was feeling healthy. I had no cough, I wasn’t coughing up blood, I wasn’t breathless. Nothing to suggest there was anything wrong, just clubbed fingers.

Like everybody else, when you think of potential lung cancer symptoms, you think a cough or coughing up blood. But I’ve learnt there are many different symptoms of lung cancer, some of which you wouldn’t associated with it, things like a sore shoulder can be a symptoms, and clubbed fingers. I had no idea that was a symptom.

Brian Gemmell

My GP, however, straightaway had an idea of what it was and he asked if he could bring in a junior and a student doctor because normally in a GP surgery you don’t see that as a symptom! I was quickly referred to a respiratory specialist and had a CT scan. That’s where they first spotted something in my lung. However, they couldn’t biopsy it so I didn’t have a definite diagnosis but, given the size, they recommended surgery.

I was nervous and apprehensive about the surgery, especially because I hadn’t officially been diagnosed with lung cancer. Prior to any surgery, you always have doubts and worries because you’re never quite sure if it’s the right thing to do. I was worried about, if they took out my lung, could I survive? What was my life going to be like afterwards. What I have trouble breathing? All these things go through your mind of how good your quality of life was going to be afterwards.

I weighed all this up and came to the decision that, if it had grown so fast in so short a time, what was it going to be like in a couple of years time? So I went with what the surgeon said – Go to hospital, get it taken care of and go and live your life – and because he was so positive about it that made me positive as well.

As far as I’m concerned, the surgeon did what he said he was going to do. He got me in, did the surgery and fortunately after that there was no follow up, all of my lymph nodes were clear.

I was fortunate, I got caught early but what about everyone else? It’s everybody’s fear to go to the doctors. Everybody worries about these things but if you go early, if you get detected earlier and caught earlier. Then you get treatment earlier and, hopefully, like me get cured. It is possible so if you’ve got anything that you’re concerned about, that’s what a GP is for.”