1st November 2020

I am Still Here: Ruthra Coventry

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As an anaesthetist, Ruthra know a lot about illnesses. However, when she started suffering from repeat chest infections she didn’t ever consider it could be lung cancer. Despite this, Ruthra was still diagnosed early enough after recognising something wasn’t right. She’s now part of the Still Here campaign to encourage others to follow suit and push for further investigation if something doesn’t feel right.

“I was diagnosed with lung cancer in November 2018. I didn’t have what people would consider obvious symptoms. I kept getting a recurring chest infection on and off for around two to three years.

Initially, I put it down to my child being in nursery. He would bring home to bugs and I would get it but I was getting it more often than my husband and I’d even get it in the summer months. It got quite bad so I decided I needed to do something about it.

It was clear something wasn’t right – I’m a young, fit and healthy person so there was no reason why I would be so susceptible to chest infections.

The GP didn’t think there was anything to be too worried about. I was diagnosed with an infection and given antibiotics. However, when I started getting chest pains and I couldn’t take deep breaths in, I started getting really concerned. I ended up in A&E because of the pain. They believed it was pleuritic pain which is pain from your lung lining. Again, I was just diagnosed with a lung infection and I was given antibiotics.

But then, a couple of days later, I coughed up a little bit of blood. I just thought I’d had this for so long so I took myself back to the GP and asked to be referred to a respiratory physician so I could get a proper look into what had been going on.

Out of the blue

Despite all this, I wasn’t expecting to be told I had lung cancer.

After I had my first CT scan, I was told that there was a mass in my chest and to be honest I think I just went into denial. I was dumbstruck and so cancer didn’t cross my mind. I don’t think I let it!

I told my family about the mass and they all burst into floods of tears. But I remained calm. I remember asking them ‘What are you all crying about, I’m going to be fine!’ I continued to believe it would just be something little that won’t affect anything.

It was only actually confirmed as lung cancer after my surgery. I’d had further tests before my surgery but they were inconclusive so I ended up going for surgery because of the location of where the mass was and that it kept causing problems, not because they knew it was lung cancer.

When I was actually told it was lung cancer, I was shocked but I still don’t think it really hit me until later. Now, when I pause for a minute and think about it, I realise just how lucky I am.

Giving back

Since recovering from my operation, I’ve tried to be a bit more philanthropic. I got so much benefit from the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation website and all the information and support it gives to people like me so I’ve been raising as much money as I can for them.

At the beginning of the year, I raised about £3,500 by chopping off loads of my hair and donating it to the Little Princess Fund which make wigs for children. 

Losing part of my lung has not affected my general lung function that much. I’ve also been raising money through Roy Castle’ virtual runs. I’m not quite back to my previous fitness level but I’m getting there.

I always have a background worry that this will come back but I think because now I’m aware of it and I was lucky to find it I will be on the case if I’m worried about any symptoms and hopefully be able to achieve a good outcome.

I know some people are worried about bothering your GP or bothering the NHS, especially at the minute but as an NHS worker myself, I can honestly say please don’t worry. It is what we’re here for. It’s our job to help if you are unwell so if you have any lingering concerns, don’t hesitate. Go to your GP and get yourself checked out and if your symptoms persist like mine did, don’t be afraid to ask to be referred to a specialist or ask for an x-ray or CT scan.

If I hadn’t have asked to be referred who knows where I’d be now.”