Steve Wilkinson went back and forth to his doctor for around 18 months before he was eventually diagnosed with lung cancer. He did have x-rays but, at the time, they were looking for breakages or strains on the muscles. They weren’t looking for lung cancer. He shares his story to try and prevent others from going through a similar experience.
I was diagnosed in October 2016 which was about 9 months before my 65th birthday. I was going to the doctor’s for about 18 months complaining of problems in my side and it was getting worse. I was getting short of breath. I’ve run marathons, loads of half-marathons, 10ks. I’ve kept fit all my life because I just like feeling fit, so it was unusual for me to get so out of breath.
I went back and forth to the doctor for about 18 months and visited there probably about 14 times in that period. During these repeat visits, the GP actually said to me ‘There is nothing sinister going on in your body, Mr Wilkinson’. Only there was.
I was sent for x-rays but nothing was ever spotted. After I was diagnosed, I asked my surgeon why they didn’t pick it up. He explained when they looked at those images, they were looking for breakages and strains on the muscles.
He also said if he had looked at those images, he would have spotted that I had lung cancer because it was behind my heart. They weren’t trained to look for that. There’s something to be learnt there.
I was terrified when I was first diagnosed. I’m a family man. I’ve got four children and four grandchildren and I was scared that I wasn’t going to see them grow up.
When I asked how long have I got, I was told that without treatment, I would probably have about 6 months. Basically, I wouldn’t see my 65th birthday. I replied, ‘Right, I’m going to get to 70!’ because I’m not ready to go yet. I’ve got a couple more World Cups in me, a few more Olympics!
Get the weed killer
The surgeon said he couldn’t operate, so my only treatment option was chemo. I knew that I was going to have something which wasn’t very pleasant, but I couldn’t wait to have it because I knew I had to get it done.
I had this vision of a bottle of weed killer and they were going to keep squirting it. I had it in my mind that the cancer was a weed, chemo was the weed killer and they were going to smother it, really cover it and get rid. That was my positive way of thinking.
Me being me, I was just trying to make the place happy, I was trying to get everybody’s spirits up. I was the practical joker in there if you like just by having good conversations and trying to find something positive to smile about.
You have to try and find the positives. Yes, I’m having treatment that’s trying to make me better, it might not cure me, but it will make me better.
I first got told I was in remission in September 2017 and my scans continue to be clear, so the chemo did it’s job. It killed the weed, for the time being anyway.
I’ve got a good lifestyle now, the only thing I can’t do is long distance running which is something I’ve always loved doing.
I continue to try and keep fit. I do exercise every day, lots of walking, I go out on my bike. I try and make the most of my life by giving to others, I help young juniors running, I do lots of training programs for them and I feel like I’ve got a purpose in my again.
I get a lot out of my life, I’m happily retired, I’ve got a lovely family and I’m just enjoying life. I don’t want to go around the world, go to the moon and back. I’m just happy doing what I’m doing. I’m happy with my life. I’m okay.”