13th June 2014

Kathys lung cancer story

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“I had been suffering with lots of coughs and colds for several months and was diagnosed as an asthmatic; a diagnosis which I readily accepted.

A couple of years after being diagnosed with asthma, and using inhalers which didn’t seem to give any relief from wheezing, I started with a terrible pain in my side which radiated up to my shoulder blade, making it difficult to breath due to excruciating pain.

I went to my doctor who said I had pleurisy and gave me antibiotics. I took the antibiotics as required but carried on working. As my job was quite sedentary as a New Homes sales advisor, I thought I would be ok whilst just sitting.

After about a week, I began to feel worse I could hardly take a breath due to the pain in my side. I called the GP who told me to take myself to A&E. I called my friend who came to take me the 16 mile journey by car; it was the most painful journey I have ever experienced – every bump was agony.

When I arrived at A&E, I was very quickly taken to a side room. I was connected to a monitor to check my heart as they thought I was having a heart attack. My temperature was 104 degrees, so off came my clothes and I was put in front of two fans to cool me down quickly. After several hours – and a chest x ray – they found that I had pneumonia.

Following my discharge from hospital, I attended an appointment with a consultant who told me that he wanted to take another x ray to see if everything was ok. He assured me that I would be fine and that he would call me with the result.

I remember so clearly, I was out having a nice girly lunch with friends at a local hotel when I got a phone call from the consultant and the words, “it’s not good news” were all that I heard.
I told my friends I had to leave, and I left the hotel and walked in the rain, feeling really worried and getting very wet.

The following week I went to see the consultant who told me that there was something on the x ray; but he didn’t know what it was and that he would certain there was nothing wrong with me but that it was just scar tissue from the pneumonia, but I needed to have a scan.

The scan followed quite quickly, then a bronchoscopy and a biopsy, then the news came that I had an adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare form of lung cancer, which I had probably had for about four years. Thankfully, it was a slow-growing tumour.

I remember sitting in the room with the consultant as he gave me the news; all I could think of was ‘I am going to die and my girls will be alone’.

I was completely devastated. After never smoking in my life and having what I thought was a healthy lifestyle, how on earth could I have lung cancer? The rest of the day is a blur of emotion; telling my two daughters was awful.

Two weeks later I found myself in hospital. I was very lucky as the company I worked for gave BUPA to their employees, so I was in a lovely hospital in the middle of a country park and the care was wonderful.

It was August Bank Holiday Monday 2007 at 8 o’clock in the morning: the date of my surgery, with my two daughters sat by my side. I was petrified that I wouldn’t survive the surgery, but five hours later I was in intensive care wired up to all sorts of machines – and still very much alive.

I returned home after six days in hospital unable to do anything for myself. Every movement was agony; simple tasks like going to the bathroom, showering, and dressing were almost impossible.
My eldest daughter gave up her job in London to take care of me full time. My youngest daughter was at university; and although she wanted to stay home with me too, I encouraged her not to stop her degree and to carry on once the term started in September.

“I survived this condition. I am so happy to be alive – it isn’t the end of the world having one lung, although at times it is a challenge. As the saying goes “That which does not kill you, only makes you stronger”.

Kathy, living with lung cancer

During a follow-up visit to the surgeon, he told me that he hadn’t removed all of the cells and I had to undergo five weeks of intensive radiotherapy – 25 treatments.

At the time, the treatment side effects were debilitating, and I found it difficult to eat or drink. I felt pretty awful. But, on 9th December, I finished my radiotherapy and I returned to my home. It was lovely to be back home and I began to recover quickly with the help of my wonderful daughters, my family and friends.

It is now three years since my surgery and radiotherapy and I feel really good. I love to walk, and did a 12-mile walk recently. I love to dance and am trying to find a salsa dance class for the winter months.