7th May 2020

Daphne Smith

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After Lynne’s mum was diagnosed with lung cancer, she turned to Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation’s website for information and support. Now, she’s encouraging people to donate on the charity’s 30th anniversary so we can continue to help people affected by the disease in these difficult times.

“Mum was fit and healthy. Although she had developed mild COPD and previously had suffered with severe pneumonia, she was an active 79-year-old.  She often went away for country music weekends, holidays and cruises and when she was at home, she was often babysitting our two springer spaniels, walking them and feeding them. She adored them. They were her grandchildren!

It was October 2017 when Mum’s health changed. She noticed she had of shortness of breath while we were out shopping, and the following day she developed bad pains in her side. Following a visit to the GP, the doctor suspected a blood clot and sent her for x-rays. Although they were right, they also found a spot on the other lung. A CT was arranged, but within a week her breathing was getting worse which we thought was due to pneumonia. Out of the blue though the results of the CT showed that she had lung cancer and she had to be admitted due to the plural fluid. We then discovered that the cancer was metastatic and had spread to liver and bones.

Her oncologist informed us that Mum had non-small cell lung cancer, which was inoperable, but contained a certain EGFR gene that would work with a targeted therapy drug that would give us more time with her. At that time, Mum was frail and in a wheelchair, so we jumped at the opportunity. The progression of the disease was so fast she would have not seen Christmas that year without treatment.

She started on Gefitinib in November 2017, and each day we noticed a remarkable improvement. We walked into the oncologist’s room three months later and the oncologist couldn’t believe the transformation. She then lived an active life for just under two years, which was “a miracle” her oncologist told us. 

However, September 2019 (exactly 20 years since she lost her husband), she said she woke with a muzzy head. I was on holiday at the time but wasn’t overly concerned. However, I came back to a changed person who was completely confused and doing random acts. An urgent CT and MRI scan showed nothing out of the ordinary, and said Vascular Dementia, but she was deteriorating, and it wasn’t a normal progression for this disease to what I knew.

On her birthday, Mum didn’t understand why she was receiving cards. She didn’t know what the day was, and we didn’t push it as it would have upset her.  She went downhill quickly. At this point, she still tried to live alone with no help apart from me and my husband. She still washed and dressed herself and tried to do her make up. 

Three days after we eventually got carers to help, they came in to find her fitting on the floor. They didn’t know how long she had been there for. Mum was non-responsive for three days, then became extremely agitated but they told us that the cancer had spread to her brain and unfortunately it would be something she would not recover from. Ten days later, she passed away.

Throughout the time Mum had lung cancer I often visited the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation website for information and support. It was very comforting and provided a lot of useful information. In these difficult times it would be an awful shame if this epidemic meant other people couldn’t receive the same help I did when they need it the most and I’d encourage everyone to support the charity as much as they can.