23rd June 2021

Joe Spotted the Difference

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Chest infections weren’t unusual for Joe; as a child, he had suffered with bronchitis. However, there was something about this particular cough that just felt different so when his doctor diagnosed a chest infection and prescribed antibiotics, Joe asked for a second opinion, a decision which potentially saved his life.

I had been suffering from a cough for several months. I’d had chest infections in the past. I’d had coughs in the past. When I was very young, I used to get bronchitis so coughs for me wasn’t an unusual thing to have. It wasn’t unusual for a cough for me to develop into something more like a chest infection. Occasionally I’d had pneumonia, but this one was different. It wasn’t going away.

It just left me tired. It left me quite lethargic. When I’d had coughs before, they can obviously knock you for six a little bit but this one took the wind out of me more than I was expecting so I continued to go back to see the GP after a course of antibiotics to get a new diagnosis.

Joe Crofts

It felt strange going back to the doctor for essentially a second opinion on something I’d already seen them for. I’d been told it was a chest infection. I’d been told take antibiotics and give it a few weeks it’ll clear up.

It felt a little bit cheeky going back to the GP to say – I don’t think this is right. I don’t think this is what you’ve said it is. I think It’s worse than that – and I was a little hesitant initially to push it further and say ‘I think this is something more serious than an infection.‘ However, over the course of several rounds of antibiotics, I think it became clear to everybody that something needed to be done to find out what was wrong so I was sent for an x-ray, then a CT and bronchoscopy.

It was then I sat down with the consultant who’d done the test and was told they had found a tumour. However, I was very fortunate that the type of cancer I had was treatable. They told me that when I went for the bronchoscopy, they were 90% sure what it was. They were 90% sure where it was, and they were 90% sure how to treat it, and it would be surgery.

I had surgery to remove a lobe of my left lung. That was over 10 years ago and now, the same procedure would almost certainly be keyhole surgery rather than, at the time I was diagnosed, invasive chest surgery and a week in hospital to recover. The thought that people now would be facing what I faced but with keyhole surgery, an easier recovery, less invasive, less daunting – I think that’s fantastic. The key is to catch it early.

I think we all know how we feel. We all know what’s normal for us and we all know whether something’s changed and I think what I would say to people is, if you don’t feel right, there’s no embarrassment or shame in going to the GP and saying ‘I don’t feel right’. It sits in the back of your mind until you get it looked at. It’s not going to go away so go and see the people who can actually tell you what it is. That’s what they’re there for. They don’t mind doing it and it’s the easiest way to get the answer to the question that you have than to ignore it.”