When Kerrie was diagnosed with lung cancer at 45 in February 2020, she was in complete shock. The pandemic was just beginning, and Kerrie wasn’t in a good place, but she found help and support throughout from her loved ones, social media and online.
“I was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer on the 28th of February 2020 after I discovered a lump on my neck during my daughter’s birthday.
“It came as a complete shock that left me numb. I just couldn’t help thinking that I’m 45, I’m too young to get lung cancer.
“Then with the pandemic setting in, I faced many obstacles, from getting tests, scans, my results to starting treatment all of that left me very anxious. I was concerned that these delays could lead to my cancer progressing, but I was able to get support and reassurance from my oncologist team, friends and family as well as using social media to find inspiring stories.”
My support system
“In the beginning, I found it hard, almost embarrassing to tell my family and friends that I had this life-threatening disease. I was always the woman who was organised and in control.
“I was scared of dying, constantly questioning whether I would see Christmas, birthdays, my daughter grow up. It’s scary and I cried a lot, and my family and friends were seeing that I wasn’t in a good place.
“It is hardest for those closest to you. When you get diagnosed with cancer, everyone wants to help, to fix it. My husband and sister were great, they Googled a lot of things, filtering out the ‘scary’ content that would add to my anxieties.”
“My family and friends rallied together to take me for scans, bloods and treatment appointments because I was unable to drive as my cancer had spread which meant I had to surrender my license on medical grounds. I also had a friend who had just finished cancer treatment and she was a huge help, telling me what to expect and what to discuss with the medical team at the hospital. Also, another friend was having cancer treatment at the same time, so there is unfortunately people close that ‘get it’ to help through.
“I also found a lot of support online. Social media has been really inspiring, reading stories of those going through the same as me.
“The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation website was a great resource, reading stories and meeting people via the online forum. Plus, I had counselling from my hospice team and all the nurses offered support when I needed it.
“There is a lot of support out there, but you have to let it not become so overwhelming or let it take over your life.”
Having lung cancer during a pandemic
“My diagnosis came just before the pandemic really struck, everyone was still being really careful, but we hadn’t reached the lockdown phase, however, when my treatment did start, we were in full lockdown.
“I remember asking what the treatment regime was before lockdown and I requested that I had that same level of treatment. The health professionals were cautious of this – unsure what the effects of Covid would have on someone during treatment. I agreed to shield throughout and was given the treatment.
“In many ways I was lucky because my oncologist rushed through my appointments, scans and treatments before full lockdown happened and I will always be grateful for that.
“I’ve since found that the pandemic hasn’t been too negative on my treatment luckily. Phone call appointments are much easier, and any hospital visits have been straightforward. I found the wards I needed were quiet and the team got me in and out quickly to keep me safe.”
I dread to think what would have happened had I not done anything about that lump and I’m so grateful for my oncology team, treatment and support I’ve received since my diagnosis.
Living with lung cancer
“As of right now, I’m in a good place. Naturally, I have my ups and downs, but generally I have more good days than bad. Of course, I get scanxiety around scans and result days, just in case my cancer has progressed, but I think most people experience that.
“I don’t know whether it’s my diagnosis or the pandemic, but I’m fitter than ever. I walk frequently with the dog and recently took part in the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, Swimming the Distance challenge. I still swim and try to do most things outside because exercise can only be good for you.
“I love to travel and regardless of my cancer and the pandemic I’ve managed to travel abroad and, in the UK, which has been amazing. Getting to live my life, lifts my spirits and makes me appreciate those moments.
“Throughout my diagnosis and treatment, I’ve even been able to keep working and my company and team have been fantastic. I enjoyed being able to work, it helps me keep a good balance in my well-being and working from home has meant I haven’t had to take much time off even when I was having treatment.
“The first few days or weeks of my diagnosis is completely different to how I feel now. It’s very scary because everything is suddenly unknown and you’re not in control of the treatment but you can input the plan, I’m fortunate my cancer remains stable right now.”
Nothing is for best anymore, every day is best. Spending quality time with friends and family, wearing the sparkly shoes, that pretty dress I was saving for best, lighting the special candles, going on holidays, cooking special dinners dancing in the kitchen. It made me think differently and learn to live with cancer being in your life. I appreciate things a little bit more than before, I do a lot more than I did before and I don’t take anything for granted anymore and certainly don’t sweat the small stuff.