24th April 2019

Gwen Boyle

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As a 35-year-old, active primary school teacher, lung cancer wasn’t even a thought in Gwen’s head. But when she saw her doctors face, she knew something was seriously wrong.

“I initially went to my doctors about something else. Whilst I was there, I mentioned a wheeze I had had for a while. But, because I work as a primary school teacher, my age and I’m quite fit and healthy, I got told it was a cold. It’ll clear up.

After a month, it hadn’t so I went back. I was given a couple of inhalers to try but when they didn’t help either, I returned the following month and said “I want to get to the bottom of this” so I got a chest x-ray.

Gwen, living with lung cancer.

“That’s my greatest fear – when I progress. Because I will progress at some point. My medication will stop working.”

Gwen was diagnosed with incurable lung cancer aged 35

Lung cancer was never brought up as a possible cause for my wheeze so, when I went to get my results I went on my own. I didn’t think I had anything to worry about.

I knew from the doctors face something was wrong though. He asked if I had anyone with me. I was like OK, obviously not good news then!

I am not ashamed to have lung cancer

I tell people I have lung cancer. I don’t feel ashamed about it. I don’t think you should feel ashamed about it.

People are genuinely quite shocked at my diagnosis. I was healthy. I was fit. I was still doing all the things used to do – working, walking the dog, jogging, on my bike.

I’m lucky being ALK+ as there’s lots of drugs and medications available. They don’t have many side effects and life is pretty much the same as it was. I do my kick boxing. I’m back at work part time. I walk my dog. I’ve been out jogging, the shopping. House work I try and avoid but I can do it! I’ll try anything and see if I can get on with it, if my body copes with it.

I think, because of that, people like I’m cured. But if you’re diagnosed at stage 4, you’re always going to be stage 4. I have to keep reminding them that I still have lung cancer. I’m just doing really well at the minute but that could change remember!

And that’s my greatest fear – when I progress. Because I will progress at some point. My medication will stop working. That’s the reality. I just hope the people working to make new treatments available succeed before my current one stops.”