Tomorrow, [1st August] on World Lung Cancer Day, Francesca Mills-Durston and her family will be taking on a massive challenge of walking for 12 hours along the waterfront in her hometown of Seaton, Devon. Fran is walking in support of her husband, Mark, who was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in December 2020. We spoke to Fran about her and Mark’s experiences, and their reasons for taking on this challenge for our Virtual Step into Summer event.
“Mark and I met each other later in life. We knew of each other but ran in two different circles. We got together in January 2011 and things moved very quickly. We moved in together within six weeks, and later married in December 2012.
My favourite thing about Mark is his sense of humour – he never fails to make me laugh. He is truly my best friend.
Looking back on things, Mark had a persistent cough from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. I was always saying to him ‘Are you sure you haven’t got covid?’ – the cough was always at its worst first thing in the morning. Mark was also experiencing feeling tired; he is a landscape gardener, so we just put this down to a heavy day at work.
Mark went and got tested for Covid-19 in December 2020 which came back negative. I then made him speak to the doctors who prescribed antibiotics and a chest X-ray.
He went for his chest X-ray at 12 noon on 29th December 2020 and at 5pm the same day, he had a call from the doctor to tell him he had lung cancer. He was then later referred for a CT scan, PET scan and a biopsy.
We both went to the hospital for his results on the 2nd of February. It was around five weeks in total to get the full diagnoses of stage four non-small cell lung cancer which had spread to lymph nodes in his chest and neck.
Both of us were very impressed with the quickness of getting these results from the NHS as at the time, they had been dealing with Covid-19 for nearly a year. Mark is having immunotherapy every six weeks at the moment, which he’s tolerating well.
Stepping into Summer
I saw the Virtual Step into Summer walk on Facebook and just knew we had to take part.
I found out that it was World Lung Cancer Day on the 1st of August, so we have chosen to do our Virtual Step into Summer Walk on that Sunday. We will be walking from 8am to 8pm along the seafront in our town of Seaton, Devon – I hope the weather stays alright for us! It’s going to be a long day, but more than worth it for the awareness raising and fundraising.
My friends and family have been incredibly supportive to us throughout Mark’s diagnosis. They’ve also helped me smash my fundraising target – my Just Giving page is almost at £1,000! I am hoping about a dozen of our friends and family will turn up throughout the day to support us along the way.
I chose to fundraise for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation because it is specifically for lung cancer. We only had a slight awareness of lung cancer before Mark was diagnosed, that’s why I’m proud to be fundraising for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation as their lung cancer awareness campaigns are helping to make sure that more people are diagnosed early.
If you have any potential lung cancer symptoms, please never put off going to see a doctor. You are better off going to a doctor earlier, than going later and ending up with a late diagnosis. The NHS, specialists and lung cancer nurses have been exceptionally good throughout our journey.”