Julie’s diagnosis came as a complete shock. She mitigated every single risk of cancer. She exercised regularly. She didn’t smoke or drink. She ate well and yet she still got lung cancer. She shares her story to raise awareness that lung cancer really can happen to anyone.
“If I can get lung cancer, so can anyone. I am 58 years old. I have never smoked. I haven’t worked in a smoky atmosphere. I don’t live in a radon gas area because my husbands checked that after my diagnosis. I was walking 20 miles up mountains and not getting out of breath. There is no obvious reason why I would have lung cancer and yet, here I am, living with stage 4 lung cancer after mitigating every single risk factor for lung cancer so I need to raise awareness.
“I was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer on my birthday – what a birthday present that was!
“In November, I noticed I had some right flank pain. It didn’t feel muscular. As a physiotherapist, that is always my first idea so I went to visit my GP. I saw the practice nurse who thought I had a urine infection. She put me on antibiotics for two weeks but they did nothing. I was then sent for renal and abdominal ultrasound. That came back clear but I still had the pain. It wasn’t an acute pain. It was a dull ache so she referred me to my GP who I saw on Christmas Eve.
“My GP was wonderful. She ran more tests but my bloods were fine. My oxygen saturation levels were fine. I had no other symptoms. I didn’t have a cough. I wasn’t breathless. I wasn’t losing weight, nor was I fatigued. I did have a little palpable discomfort around my lower ribs and so she sent for a chest x-ray.
“A week later, she called to say there was a shadow on my lung, but cancer was still the furthest thing from my mind because it just felt so unlikely. However, when I was given an appointment with a consultant after my CT scan, the alarm bells started to ring and I said to my husband ‘This is being done under a two week rule. This isn’t good news‘.
“I started my treatment on Valentines Day. My PD-L1 marker was 55-60%, so my consultant said that immunotherapy would be the best treatment option for me.
I had my first course just four weeks after my diagnosis. I consider myself to be very blessed. Anybody who has diagnosed with cancer wants to know what their options are, and they want treatment to start as soon as possible.
“I was apprehensive about going on to the chemo ward for my treatment. I expected to be surrounded by very sad, very poorly people, with no hair. But I was pleasantly surprised. It was so refreshing. The nurses were phenomenal. They have a terrific sense of humor. There was laughter. They was chatter. I have spoken to some wonderful people and I can say that in all the time I’ve been having treatment, I’ve not seen one miserable person on chemo floor.
“After I had my first treatment, my lung cancer nurse called me to see how I was doing. I told her I didn’t have any side effects and did that mean the treatment wasn’t working? She reassured me that was absolutely not the case and in fact, it was good news that I was asymptomatic. And she was right. I have just my 10th cycle and the scan show it’s working brilliantly. My big tumour is now 80% smaller than it was than when I started and I’m just carrying back on with my life.
“The biggest change in my life is that I had to retire. I’ve decided that after many years in the health service, it’s time to retire and live my best life. I’m seeing friends. I’m going out and doing things. My husband and I are going on holiday and making wonderful memories. We just make the very most of every day.
“Life is different, but not worse. Every day is a blessing. I’m looking forward to every new sunset and every new sunrise. I’m looking forward to kicking the leaves in the autumn. I’m looking forward to cold, frosty days in the winter. I’m looking forward to daffodils coming up in the spring. I’m looking forward to my daughter’s wedding. She gets married in December.
“I am a very glass half full kind of girl. I always have been, and I see no reason why cancer should change that. I’m lucky because there are treatments out there. I don’t feel like I’m at the end of the road. I’m at the beginning of a journey.”