Kay is just like every other 19 year old. She’s just started at Sheffield Hallam University where she’s studying to be a nurse. She’s a sweet and feisty young woman who shouldn’t have a care in the world. Except she does. In May 2016, aged just 17, Kay was diagnosed with ALK positive non-small cell lung cancer.
“I was completely shocked by my diagnosis. I’d had a cough for over three weeks and was also experiencing breathlessness but lung cancer was the furthest thing from my mind.
I didn’t know very much about lung cancer; I thought there was just one type. I didn’t know how many different types of lung cancer there was. Why should I? I was too young to get such a disease so when I was told I had it, I was totally overwhelmed and everyone around me – my family, friends – were so shocked because of how young I was.
I also thought all cancers made you lose your hair. I didn’t realise that you would be able to keep it. That’s something to be grateful for. I’ve also learnt what happens to you depends on how your body reacts to treatment, it doesn’t matter what stage you’re at. It could be a really bad stage but you could react really well to treatment so you’ve got to keep positive.
Like most people with lung cancer, I’ve been asked if I smoke. Most people just presume I have so I’ve brought it on myself when it’s not really the case. It can happen to anyone and that’s why I wanted to share my story and join Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation’s #HeadHigh campaign to show anyone can get lung cancer and it needs to be a higher priority.”
Kay’s mum, Aileen, is unsurprisingly incredibly proud of her daughter:
“Kay is the inspiration. She has held us together. Looking at her has given us the strength to keep going.”
When asked, what needs to change about lung cancer and improve survival rates, Aileen was quick to answer:
“It’s all about education. It’s all about raising awareness to the fact that lung cancer can affect any body, of any age. It doesn’t take any prisoners.Aileen knows anyone can be affected by lung cancer.
“Kay is doing ok at the minute. She is on a daily targeted chemotherapy tablet which has minimal effect on her life at the moment and hardly any side effects. She is at university. She can go out partying. She can do what every 19 year old should be doing and that is her right. But, one day, this drug is going to stop working and we don’t know what will happen when it does.
“This disease is affecting more females, more non smokers worldwide so we have to find out why these drugs stop working. We need to have the funding to answer these questions. It is affecting a large chunk of people who are of value to the community. They deserve the research, they deserve the funding, they deserve a long and happy life. Kay deserves a long and happy life.”