John just put his muscle down to a sports injury. However, when he failed a drugs test in work because of the amount of codeine he was needing, he knew something had to be done.
“I’ve always been an active person. I enjoy sports and, working as an engineer for the RAF, I have a physical job. So when I started experiencing muscle pain, I just put to down to that.
“The pain was bad though. I was taking a lot of painkillers, including codeine at night so I could get some sleep. I was then due to start a new job and as part of the application, I had to take a drugs test. I knew I would fail it because I was taking painkillers but this was the final straw. Enough was enough – I needed to understand what was causing the pain.
“The doctor sent me for an x-ray and I was then referred to Peterborough hospital. The x-ray showed a shadow. Then subsequent CT and PET scans at the Royal Papworth Hospital confirmed lung cancer.
“Needless to say, it was a complete shock, especially as I didn’t have the symptoms you would associate with lung cancer. I just had this muscle pain in my side. In fact, cancer was so far from my mind that I actually attended the diagnosis appointment on my own.
I started on chemotherapy, which I know a lot of people are terrified of having. However, the chemo ward turned out to be my happy place. I actually looked forward to going. I would chat to people, chat to the nurses.
“It was a relief when I had the treatment. I then had two days of feeling good before feeling the impact of the treatment. You get into the routine of it though. You know what you can do and when.
“I do obviously have some disabilities because of the cancer. My energy levels can be low and my concentration can waiver. I call it my chemo brain! And it’s difficult going from being a sporty person to having to take a step back. I’ve had to sell my motorbike because my reaction time isn’t quick enough anymore. That was a hard one to bear.
“But that’s life and there are still positives. My wife and I have brought a camper van and are having lots of little mini breaks around the country. We also got a puppy. We got him on the first day of my treatment and he’s really helped. I would need to get up and let him out and play with him, when otherwise I may have just stayed on the sofa.
“I’m now over a year past my ‘expiration date’, or prognosis for those who don’t have as dark sense of humour as I have! My friends and I often joke about it. They often check in and check if they need to get their best suit dry cleaned anytime soon, or they’ll ask me which hole they should put a memorial bench by. I know some people would find this morbid or insensitive but it’s how we deal with it. You just have to deal with your own diagnosis in the best way for you.”