26th June 2019

Julie Andrew

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Julie had many different symptoms of lung cancer – some more common like fatigue, and others less familiar including a swollen face. She visited her GP frequently, yet was eventually diagnosed via accident and emergency.

“I have always been a busy person; I worked fulltime in a nursing home and also had four little cleaning jobs. I was up at 5am most days and went to the gym for around an hour and a half on my part-days off. 

But, in May, I started to feel unusually tired. I was also waking up with a swollen face in the morning, although it seemed to go down as the day went on.

Despite having many lung cancer symptoms, Julie was eventually diagnosed at A&E
Despite having many lung cancer symptoms, Julie was eventually diagnosed at A&E

My GP, the first time I went, said it was eczema. However, when I returned two days later armed with a picture showing just how swollen my face was, they took some blood. The results were all clear so I continued going back and forth to my GP with varying symptoms. I must have gone 8 or 10 times but they kept putting it down to anxiety and the menopause.

In the end, I became so ill that my partner took me to A&E. I was there less than 45 minutes and had an x-ray which showed a growth in my right lung. They gave me a CT scan the same day which confirmed I had small cell lung cancer.

After my CT scan, my GP called me to say how sorry they were. They also admitted it should have been picked up at one of my earlier appointments.

Julie, living with small cell lung cancer

I was due to start chemotherapy. However, the day before, I went into level two respiratory failure. The doctors were incredible. They worked on me for two hours and got me breathing on my own so I could still start my treatment as planned.

I was on a combined chemotherapy of etopiside and carboplatin and it worked; it shrunk the tumour. I then had eight months on a clinical trial for an immunotherapy which kept the cancer stable.  

When it started to progress, I had 20 rounds of radiotherapy. Then in February 2018, the cancer spread and I was diagnosed with brain metastases. I had six more rounds of chemotherapy as well as 10 doses of radiation on my brain.

It’s been tough going but I try not to get upset because I don’t want to scare or upset my daughter. She lost her dad suddenly to pneumonia just a few months before my diagnosis so she has been through a lot. I hate she has had to see me so ill and sometimes I don’t let her know when I’m feeling a bit rough, or scared.

Most of the time though I do feel positive and not too ill. I manage to get out and walk my dogs – just at a slower pace!”