Joanna’s lung cancer story

Joanna is not someone anyone would expect to get lung cancer. She is a young woman who has never smoked. However, when she was 33, Joanna started displaying several lung cancer symptoms. It took Joanna 15 months to get diagnosed and sadly, by this time, her cancer was inoperable and incurable. She wanted to share her story to act as a reminder that anyone with lungs can get lung cancer.

“I’d been poorly for about 15 months all told by the time I’d got my diagnosis. I’d been pregnant with my little girl and I had a really bad pregnancy. I had terrible sickness but also had symptoms I now recognise to be lung cancer symptoms.

I kept getting these recurring chest infections, that just wouldn’t shift. I was repeatedly prescribed antibiotics. I think, over a course of 14 months, I had 12 rounds of antibiotics. I was told it was everything from pleurisy to pneumonia – but never lung cancer.

I also lost two stone in weight whilst I was pregnant. I was breathlessness and I had this intermittent cough. My cough would last between four and five weeks and then it would clear up a little bit, but it was still there under the surface.

Eventually a doctor had a look at my case, saw something clearly wasn’t right and sent me for an x-ray. That was when my diagnosis started.

I have a rare type of lung cancer called anaplastic lymphoma kinase positive (ALK+) lung cancer. It occurs in around 3-5% of patients diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer and usually affects younger people who have not smoked.

I really wanted to be part of this campaign to remind everyone that lung cancer is a disease that can affect anyone. I know the majority of cases a doctor sees with similar symptoms to me won’t be lung cancer but I want people to know it is still possible, so if the symptoms are even suggesting lung cancer, even if that person doesn’t fit the profile of what a lung cancer patient is perceived to be, then they should still be referred for an x-ray or further tests before it’s too late.”