When Jeff received a letter for a lung health check, he had no hesitation about going. He had lost several family members to lung cancer, including his mum, so he wanted to make sure everything was ok. He wasn’t worried and certainly didn’t expect them to find anything; he had no symptoms and was feeling fit and healthy, playing football and going to the gym. But that’s the thing with lung cancer… in those very early stages, there often aren’t clear and obvious warning signs…
“Give me a million pounds or that letter? I got the best deal with that letter in my eyes… and in my family’s eyes. Me and my brother are dead close and he saw the effects when I got the diagnosis but now everything’s just back to normal again and it’s all because I was invited for that lung check.
I remember that day so clearly. I got one morning and there was a letter on the mat from the NHS, inviting me for a lung check. As soon as I read the letter, I made an appointment straightaway, no hesitation, even though I didn’t have any symptoms and I felt good. I was playing football and going to the gym. I had also quit smoking 8 years ago but my mum died of lung cancer, and so did my great granddad and my uncle so I thought it was important to get checked.
I rang the number in the letter and made an appointment to talk to one of the lung nurses. It was just a few questions over the phone like ‘Do I get out of breath?’ and did I have any symptoms? They asked when I stopped smoking which was abut eight years ago. Then they asked if I wanted to come for a CT scan because I ticked all the boxes. They actually had a cancellation that afternoon so I went straightaway to the hospital.
I’d never had a CT scan before. It was all new to me so I looked at it like an adventure! It was nothing to be scared about. You just take all the things out of your pockets and then lie on this bed. Then the bed gets shoved up this tube and it takes all these different photographs and that’s it!
Two days later, the doctor called me and said they found a little growth on the top of my right lung. He said not to worry but they wanted to send me for a PET scan, which I had a couple of days later. I then got another phone call and the PET scan confirmed there was something else and that it was something ‘sinister’, that’s how they described it. It was then that they asked me to come back in so they could do a biopsy but it was so small they weren’t sure if they would be able to get a piece from the biopsy. Luckily they managed to get two small pieces and, when they tested them, it was confirmed I had lung cancer.
It was scary when I got the diagnosis but because everything had happened so quickly, I couldn’t really believe it was happening especially as I wasn’t expecting them to find anything because I felt absolutely fine.
However, when I was told I had lung cancer, the doctor then immediately said I was a success story because they caught it so early. When he said that I thought that I had a good chance of survival because in 18 months time it would have been a different conversation.
A few days later, I was in hospital and because they got it so early, I could have keyhole surgery to remove it. I was in hospital, had the operation and then the next day the consultant said I could go home. I couldn’t believe it. It felt like it was all a dream and that’s all because of that letter asking me to go for that lung check.
I’m virtually back to normal now. My scar’s healed. I’m back in the gym. I’m seeing my grandchildren every day, watching them play football and rugby. They’re my world. I go down and see them. They just make me smile and they love the bones of me. They always write me little letters. They would have been gutted if anything had happened to me!
I go to bed at night and think just how lucky I am.