1st November 2019

David James

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Lung cancer denies many people many things. It nearly denied David the chance of walking his daughter down the aisle. But he had other ideas…

David shared his story as part of our Follow my Lead campaign

“My daughter was all set to get married in October 2018. However, a month before I was diagnosed with lung cancer and couldn’t go. Fortunately, she rearranged it for March the following year.

We decided to get a wedding car. A nice big white one. It was lovely. I sat in the back with my daughter and her two children and we drove to the registry office.

I got to walk her down the aisle. I felt so proud. You think ‘cancer wants to deny you of this’. Then you think ‘Nah, you picked on the wrong bloke this time!’

Diagnosis and treatment

I had a really bad chest infection almost a year before. Then, during a holiday, I was swimming and could feel myself wheezing. A couple of months later, I was doing a 10k run. I got about halfway round and was struggling to run. I had a drink of water, coughed and thought ‘oh, my chest infection is coming back’.

I didn’t think much of it until a month later when I could barely walk up the stairs. We live in a flat on the sixth floor. I walked up to the third floor and had to take the lift the rest of the way.

Lung cancer never crossed my mind; I just presumed it was another chest infection until one morning I got up and could only breathe in half a breath.

When I went to hospital, they took an x-ray and they thought I had a blood clot on each lung. They wanted to know why I had blood clots. Then they did a scan and then they found a nasty looking lump on my right lung and a biopsy confirmed lung cancer.

At this point, I was told it couldn’t be cured but it could be treated, managed and you could live with it. Well that’s not too bad, I think.

David got to walk his daughter down the aisle

However, after further tests that all changed; it was in my lymph nodes and my bones. Then the oncologist said – I think he’s got immune to upsetting people – it is going to kill you.

The way he told me, it got my back up and I thought ‘It’s not going to kill me!’ I don’t even feel ill. I think if he’d been all nice about it, maybe I would have believed it. So, in a way you’ve got to sort of thank him for it!

I’ve had six sessions of chemo. It was like five-day hangovers! I knew all the drinking I did as a teenager was preparing me for something!

The first two lots of chemo, I couldn’t do anything. I just felt too rough. Then after the third session, I felt ok, so my wife suggested we go for a walk. We live near Southend, so parked up and walked along the front, went for something to eat, then walked the full length of the pier. In the end, we’d walked nine miles. I couldn’t believe it!

A game of chess

People often describe living with lung cancer as a fight. I do see this as a battle, but it’s more of a strategic chess game.

You make a move, then you’ve got to wait for your scan to see what move cancer’s made. It’s a fair long drawn out thing. I think it is a fight, a battle but more a tactical one and, at the minute, the cancer is dormant so I can concentrate on what matters – my family.

David has five grandchildren – Jess, Ellie, Reggie, Jayden and Harvey

Cancer does help you get your priorities right. I used to work a lot, work for my family, trying to provide for us. But it meant I missed out on things.

Cancer comes along and it makes you realise what’s important. My family, my wife, all my kids and my grandchildren.”

David shared his story as part of our Follow my Lead campaign for Lung Cancer Awareness Month 2019. Follow my Lead aims to improve conversations around lung cancer and help those affected to address and deal with a diagnosis.