21st February 2022

Harry’s lung cancer story

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Harry, from Stoke-on-Trent, considered himself to be pretty fit so when he saw an advert for a targeted lung health check on social media, he had no worries about going. Imagine his surprise when he then went on to be diagnosed with early stage lung cancer, as well as calcification of the heart and mild emphysema. He’s now sharing his story to encourage those who are invited for a lung health check to take up the opportunity even if they feel fine because with lung cancer, you just never know…

“My name is Harry Burn. I’m 74 years old and I was born and bred in Stoke on Trent. I was a former mechanic but I’ve been retired now for almost 10 years.

I first found out about the lung health check when I saw an ad on Facebook. I saw that I was eligible for it – I was the right age, registered with one of the local GP practices and I had been a smoker, so I gave them a call.

I had a conversation with one of the lung health check nurses and she ran through some questions with me about my general health and my lung health. It was a very short interview on the telephone. She asked if I’d got any underlying illnesses and I explained I had angina. I was also experience a bit of breathlessness and had a slight cough, which I had put down to the angina and just getting older. She also asked if I’d ever smoked, which I had. I’d also worked in an industry where we came into contact with asbestos.

After the chat, she said I was eligible for a CT scan which I agreed to. I actually looked up the procedure on a social media. I watched a video on YouTube of someone having a CT scan so I knew what to expect and had no hesitation about going for it.

I thought I was pretty fit. They confirmed that I did have a nodule in the right lung. I’d also got calcification of the heart, a problem with the parotid gland in the neck and also mild emphysema.

So at that point I thought Oh! Perhaps I’m not as fit as I thought I was!

It was done in the x-ray department at the University Hospital of North Midlands. I appreciate some people might be a little worried about going into hospital at the moment but I had no qualms whatsoever. I’ve been there many times so I had no worries about going into hospital.

A little while after I’d had the C scan, I received a phone call with the result. They told me that the CT scan was showing an abnormality in the right lung. There was a small nodule. What this meant, I had no idea but was told they wanted to send me for a PET scan, which again I accepted but did come as quite a shock because I thought I was relatively fit.

The PET scan confirmed that I did have a nodule in the right lung but it was quite small and this meant that it perhaps wasn’t as advanced as it could be. At this point, I was told that it was probably cancer and the best course was to remove the central lobe because it seemed as though the cancer was just in the one place.

I was originally booked in for surgery on 8th September. I had a Covid-test a few days before which turned out to be positive so my surgery had to be postponed. It was an anxious time because I had got myself ready. Thankfully, my operation was rescheduled six weeks later so I didn’t have too long to wait.

I couldn’t believe just how quickly the operation took. Before I knew it I was in recovery, then back on the ward. I came to and the first thing I wanted was tea and toast! I couldn’t believe how well it went and how well I felt. I’d got no cough. I wasn’t short of breath. It was amazing. Those symptoms have returned however but not as bad as I’d had it in the past. I would say they were reduced by at least 50, if not 60% so I guess they were, in part, down to my angina.

I had been worried about the size of the operation and the pain I’d then be in afterwards. That was the one thing that concerned me but I needn’t have worried. I had no pain at all. None. I just couldn’t believe it. And now I’m back to my old self. There’s nothing that I can’t do. Absolutely nothing.

I honestly don’t know what would have happened had I have not gone for the check up. I don’t think I would have gone to my doctor with the cough or the breathlessness because I just presumed it was one of those things, so I probably would have carried on in the same vein and things most probably would have got worse. Instead now I can look forward to growing old.”