29th November 2021

Karen spotted the difference

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Many people think lung cancer can’t be cured. Tell that to Karen Boniface who remains all clear, 17 years after her lung cancer diagnosis. She shares her story as part of our Spot the Difference awareness campaign to give hope those newly diagnosed and highlight the importance of acting on symptoms.

I first went to the doctor with pains in my knees and feeling extremely tired. At first I thought maybe I’d eaten something I shouldn’t have as I’m celiac and I thought the tiredness was maybe something to do with that, or where I was working in a hotel. During the busy season, I’d be on my feet constantly, running up and down stairs but, by this time, it was end of the season. I realised something wasn’t right so that’s when I first went to the doctor.

I had blood tests and I was prescribed iron tablets. However, my fingers then started to become clubbed. The nails were beginning to curl over like you and they were quite sore and painful. My chiropractor suggested I should go back to the doctors, which I did.

It was at that appointment when things started moving. They got the medical book out and sent me for a chest x-ray. Then, a bit later, I had a phone call at work to say that they wanted to send me off to the chest consultants.

What is it?

The scans showed there was ‘something’ in my lung but they couldn’t get near it to do a biopsy. The decision was made that whatever it was should be taken out and I was booked in for surgery.

I had no apprehension about the surgery, even though I didn’t know what they were removing. I just wanted whatever it was to be taken out because it was making me feel so poorly. It had been nine months by this point so I just wanted it sorted and get myself on the path the recovery.

It was only after my surgery that it was confirmed as lung cancer so I was so relieved we had decided to remove it. The surgeon’s told me that they had cut out the top part of the lung and some lymph nodes and they got good margins.

Despite this, they wanted to do ‘belt and braces chemotherapy’. I went for that because I thought it would mop up any cells that have been moved around during the surgery.

I did feel confident with what I was being told by the medics, that they had gotten what they needed to. There was nothing in the lymph nodes and so I felt quite good about that and clearly they were right because 17 years old, here I am!

Living life

I’ve gone up to Norway and I’ve been up to the Arctic circle and I’ve walked up there and watched the walruses and the polar bears swimming around. It’s just wonderful that I can still do these sorts of things.

I treated myself to the last QE2 leaving New York so I flew over to New York. I hadn’t been there since 1979, and that was wonderful. I flew in and caught the Q2 and it was just fantastic. I got to do all this because I acted on my initial symptoms and continued to go back to the doctors.

I do believe that if you are feeling different than you are normally feeling that you do need to go to the doctor. Make contact with them and say “This isn’t right. This isn’t normal for me and I’ve done this, done that and I’m still feeling ill.” If they fob you off, keep going back and ask for tests – asks for blood test, ask for a chest x-ray. Chances are it will be nothing and you’ll get peace of mind but if it isn’t you’re giving yourself the best chance to be caught early like me. Keep on and you will get there.”

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