1st August 2022

Dale’s lung cancer story #needtoscreen

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Too many people are diagnosed with lung cancer at a late stage, when it can’t be cured and there a limited number of treatment options.

In fact, 42% of people with lung cancer have their disease diagnosed when it has reached stage 4. Sadly, one of these was Keith Fitzsimmons. 

His son, Dale, spoke to us about Keith’s diagnosis and how he is backing our #needtoscreen campaign to help save others from the pain of losing a family member to lung cancer.

“We actually discovered the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation while we were preparing for Dad’s funeral’, said Dale. ‘’The charity’s work, messaging and campaigning is so appropriate for us, and we really want to help.

“If a national lung cancer screening programme is introduced, it could help people like Dad to be diagnosed before it’s too late. Other types of cancer screening have proved hugely successful, and having witnessed what happened to Dad – who was so physically fit – national lung cancer screening is an absolute must for the future.

“Dad had a real zest for life and took up running. He completed many local races and even finished the London Marathon – not once, but twice!

“He was married to my mum Cheryl for almost 38 years, and worked as an Associate Architect at a practice in Coventry for 28 years. Dad was a thoroughly determined man, always calm – whatever the situation – and extremely loyal.

Keith and Dale watching their team, Coventry City.

“The first sign that something was wrong with him came towards the end of September 2019, when he went out for a run. He returned after a short time with shooting pains in his back and asked Mum to arrange a GP appointment.

“Sadly, it took a long time for Dad to be diagnosed. Probably, because he was so fit and healthy, the doctors couldn’t quite believe anything was wrong. In the end, Mum and Dad paid privately for an MRI scan as they knew something wasn’t quite right.”

The #needtoscreen for lung cancer is clear: targeted lung health checks, which are now running in several select locations across England, are diagnosing 77% of lung cancers at stages 1 and 2.

Dale’s father was just 60 years old when he was diagnosed, and 63 when he died. If a national screening programme had been in place at the time, it could have detected his lung cancer earlier, giving him a better prognosis.

Dale continued, “Apparently, the cancer had been present for some considerable time, but Dad’s good health had masked any symptoms. It would be great to think that in future years, lung cancer can be detected early via screening, enabling it to be successfully treated before it spreads and becomes a greater challenge.

Keith taking part in his favourite Two Castles 10k run | Keith and his Twin brother Peter on their 62nd birthday

“Dad is survived by his twin brother – my uncle Peter – and their father, my grandad, who is 92 and still very able.

“It’s early days for us. In fact, Mum and I still can’t believe all that has happened. We’re trying to be strong and look after each other as we know this is what Dad would want. Currently, we’re taking it 24 hours at a time. Our family and friends have been so kind, but we’ve lost our rock. Everything seems so strange without him.

If, by sharing our experience and joining the charity’s #needtoscreen campaign, we can prevent families enduring the loss which we’ve gone through and are currently trying to come to terms with, it will be so worthwhile.”