9th November 2021

Lucy spotted the difference

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Everyone’s lung cancer diagnosis is different, and so is everyone’s response to treatment. When Lucy was diagnosed with lung cancer for the second time, she was given just months to live. That was 10 years ago…

“It took me a long time to be diagnosed with lung cancer, despite having many symptoms. It started with sore knees. I then developed a tickly cough. I was losing weight and I had clubbed fingers. But, given my age, I was told there wasn’t a ‘cat in hells chance’ I had lung cancer.

By the time I was diagnosed many months later, I was actually relieved. We finally knew what was making me so poorly and, despite the delay, they believed I was still early stage and so had surgery to remove the tumour.

However, just a few weeks later, my symptoms returned. My knees started to hurt again and my cough came back. I had another CT scan and was told that what they could see was just scarring from the surgery. There was nothing wrong, but I pushed at that point. I’d learnt to trust my judgement a bit more.

I had another – my third – CT guided biopsy and a bronchoscopy and they both confirmed that the lung cancer had sadly returned.

At this point, I still thought there was hope, that I could have surgery again and they could do exactly what they’d done before and just getting it all this time. But they sat me down and explained that actually surgery was no longer an option and they’d given me a terminal diagnosis.

They asked me how old my daughter was and when her birthday was; she was due to turn three years old that September. This was May and they suggested I bring her birthday party forward. That was my lowest ever point at that point when I was told there’d no hope, that they were just going to try and give you a couple of months with my daughter.

But with treatment comes hope

I started on chemotherapy. I was on a combination of cisplatin and gemcitabine, which I know are still used but probably not as commonly now, as they were back then. There weren’t many treatments available back then, so you almost had off the shelf chemotherapy. We got to treatment five and I just couldn’t tolerate any more.

I then had my scan to see how I’d responded. The doctors were astounded. I had total response to the chemotherapy. They couldn’t see the lung cancer tumour in my chest at all when they did the CT scan. They were amazed but they were also very very guarded, and I remember vividly them sitting down and saying, it’s gone but it’s going to come back…

However, for whatever reason, the cancer has stayed away.

I’m still on yearly scans, 10 years later. I still feel very looked after, very monitored, very very well cared for. I still have scanxiety before every single scan. Every time I get a cough, I always stop and think and assess the cough – is this like my old cough? Is this like the lung cancer cough?

The fear of it coming back never goes away and I don’t think it ever will leave me because of the position I’ve been in. However, I know treatments have come such a long way over the last 10 years so if my lung cancer does ever return, which they’ve always had to say is a possibility because when you’re stage 4, they can never say you’re clear for life, there’s so many more targeted treatments that are available. My oncology team is really confident that if my lung cancer ever came back, I’d have this whole wealth of treatments available.

Life now for me is a million miles away from that person who sat in a hospital bed alone and crying. My career has gone on leaps and bounds. I feel like I’m doing what I always should have been doing. My daughter’s grown up. She’s an absolute joy most of the time because she’s a teenager now but it fills me with pride every day and every birthday we go through, every Christmas we go through. I just thank my lucky stars I’m still here to enjoy it with her.”