4th November 2022

Clair’s lung cancer story

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Like many people, Clair was completely unaware that back pain is a symptom of lung cancer. She simply put it down to her job and is now living with a stage 4 diagnosis, aged just 44 years old. She is desperate to warn others of this lesser known symptoms and reminded everyone that anyone can get lung cancer.

“My oncologist thinks I had the cancer for about 18 months before being diagnosed. It’s scary to know I was walking around completely unaware of what was going on inside my body.

“I wish I had questioned my back pain sooner. Who knows what might have happened if I had? But you can’t live with what ifs. You must focus on the positives and make something good come out of this devastating situation. For me, that’s raising awareness to prevent someone else from going through what I am going through, so here’s my story.

“My name is Clair. I am 44. I live with my husband and our three children. I work part time as a learning support assistant and, like everyone, I love spending time with my family and friends.

“My lung cancer story starts back in 2021. I started to suffer with a bad back. I was referred for physio and to a chiropractor, but that actually made my back pain worse. I just persevered with it though, putting it down to my job. Lung cancer was probably the furthest thing from my mind because I just never thought backache would lead to that kind of diagnosis, especially as I have never smoked.

“I then got Covid at the beginning of this year. I was left very short of breath, so I went to my GP. I was immediately referred for chest and back x-rays, which revealed a shadow on my lung and three broken vertebrae in my spine. Because of the shadow, I asked if my symptoms could be signs of cancer. I was told no because cancer doesn’t usually appear in the back. However, further tests proved otherwise.

“After that, it was a whirlwind of appointments and meetings, including a biopsy which is so important to have. That was how my full diagnosis was confirmed – stage 4 ALK+ lung cancer, which is a genetic mutation, and this opened up a whole new range of treatment options.

When I was first diagnosed, I was referred to St Christopher’s hospice for palliative care. This was terrifying because I thought it meant I was going to die and die soon. However, life is good.

“I am back working part time, which I am enjoying. I am saying yes to more things than I used to, and I am making more plans with family and friends.

“I am also part of a support group called Every Breath, which meets once a month. I am really grateful to this group as it’s given the chance to meet people who really understand what it’s like to live with this disease and I would never have met them otherwise. You have to find silver linings.

“This is why I am here now sharing my story. I want to raise awareness of the dangers of ignoring potential warning signs, and of not knowing all the different types of lung cancer. I also wanted to highlight that young people and people who haven’t smoked can also get lung cancer. “Everyone needs to know anyone can get lung cancer and any symptoms that last longer than three weeks should be investigated. It’s something I never ever thought about it, but yet here I am living with lung cancer.”