Glenys Gregory was diagnosed with stage 3 non-small cell lung cancer in January 2020. Unfortunately, she knows all too well about the devastating effects the disease can have. In the past 10 years she has lost both her mum and aunt to lung cancer.
Fortunately, new treatments for lung cancer are constantly being developed and Glenys is currently being treated with Pembrolizumab immunotherapy, which was first approved for use in the UK in 2017.
“Getting a lung cancer diagnosis makes you realise how precious time is, and Covid-19 has made that time even more valuable.
I think I have been fortunate though; the pandemic has not noticeably hampered my treatment. I greatly commend the cancer teams and staff at Clatterbridge and Aintree Hospitals who have been able to deliver my treatment under what has been the most difficult circumstances and an uncertain time for everyone.
To get an early diagnosis, we’ve really got to understand symptoms and realise when symptoms of lung cancer appear. It’s probably one of the reasons why it took me a few months to speak to my doctor.
I had a dry, hacking cough after a holiday in September 2019. Shortly after this, I developed pain and discomfort running from my right shoulder into my elbow. The pain became more intense, and it really began affecting my everyday life.
Looking back, I actually experienced similar pains in my shoulder a few years earlier. It was originally treated with a steroid injection. When this pain returned, I thought it was a recurrence of the old ailment and as such, it prevented me from pursuing a diagnosis more purposely and sooner.
Luckily, my lung cancer had not spread any further than nearby lymph nodes. But due to the location of the tumour – close to main blood vessels in my chest – surgery was ruled out straightaway.
My consultant stated that it was his intention to treat the tumour ‘radically’ with a 35-day dose of radiotherapy followed by chemotherapy but then along came coronavirus!
It was then decided to treat the tumour with Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) immunotherapy, and I required a further CT guided biopsy as they needed more tissue to test the tumour. Thankfully, the results showed a very high marker (over 80%) for response to the treatment and I started the first course in April 2020.
Following my first two immunotherapy treatments, I suffered from a swelling of the Superior Vena Cava in my chest which caused my face, feet and hands to swell up. It left me virtually unable to walk or carry out any tasks around the house. I was unable to shower or bath without assistance and could hardly dress myself. I was spending my days either in bed or on the couch. That was a really low time for me. It was treated with a 5-day course of radiotherapy at Clatterbridge, and after which my situation improved, but I still cannot do much of what I did prior to starting treatment.
It’s been a drawback to not have been able to sit down face to face with a consultant at each appointment in person. Instead, everything has been done on the telephone, which is totally understandable in view of the pandemic, but it is unfortunate that the personal human touch has been lost.
Looking to the future
That is my story of the recent past but, I intend to live every moment of my future. As soon as we are able to travel, we are off to the Isle of Man to visit Natalie, our daughter. She is getting married in December and I am looking forward to a wonderful wedding in the Trough of Bowland at a beautiful location surrounded by family and friends.
My husband, David, and I have just bought a little river cruiser which we intend to make full use of this year. We are definitely getting over to Germany as soon as we can fly to see our son, Paul. I also have a good friend who lives abroad and who used to visit regularly, I’ll be off to see them as soon as possible.
I like to keep a strong sense of mind about my condition. I’m thoroughly determined to do what I have to in order to manage it and enjoy my life at the same time. If I could change things, I wouldn’t have lung cancer. But it’s here, so we crack on and do what we can, when we can, for as long as we can.”