When Mandee Lucas was told she was lung cancer free at her five-year scan, she breathed a huge sigh of relief. Fast forward a couple of months and Mandee’s world came crashing down again when she was told she had breast cancer – completely unrelated to her original lung cancer diagnosis.
Fortunately, after undergoing a wealth of treatments, Mandee is once again cancer free. As part of our International Women’s Day series, Mandee takes stock of her two diagnoses, the differences she encountered and why she is now even more focus on improving outcomes for lung cancer.
“My two cancer diagnoses couldn’t have been more different.
“My lung cancer diagnosis happened completely by accident. I had an unrelated scan, the images of which fortunately caught the bottom part of my lung where the smallest of tumours was. At that point, lung cancer wasn’t really a consideration, and the decision was made to just ‘watch and wait’.
“Even after the tumour grew 18 months later, my medical team was still not really considering lung cancer as a possibility. I was deemed too young and too low risk for lung cancer. I fought every step of the way and in the end demanded they take it out. It was only after I had the surgery, and the mass was biopsied that my diagnosis was confirmed.
“My breast cancer diagnosis was so much easier, and I believe this was because I was in the ‘sweet spot’ for breast cancer. I also had symptoms; I felt a lump in my breast whilst on holiday. When I got home, I arranged a mammogram and a week after that, I returned to the clinic for further tests, a biopsy and got my diagnosis the same day.
As much as I hate having to have gone through a second cancer diagnosis, it gives me a pretty unique perspective and has only renewed my determination to level the playing field for lung cancer.
“I shouldn’t have had to fight so much for my lung cancer diagnosis. Whilst I appreciate the circumstances were different, if cancer is even a possibility, then everything should be done to rule this out in the first instance.
“I still have those dreadful what if moments; What if I hadn’t pushed? What if I wasn’t in the privileged position of having private healthcare so I could demand surgery? I know so many others would not have been able to do this and are quite likely to now be faced with an incurable diagnosis.
“This is why I will keep working with Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation to improve the outcomes for people with lung cancer, to ensure more people have a simpler route to diagnosis like the one I did for breast cancer. Early diagnosis is the key to long term survival, and I am fortunate to have had both my cancers caught early enough for curative treatment.
It’s a strange way to say it but my first love will always be lung cancer. Since my breast cancer diagnosis, people have asked if I’ll campaign as ferociously for breast cancer as I have for lung, and my answer is no. The world of cancer is not even, and lung cancer needs me more.
“In my experience, breast cancer was easier to treat and what has been clear is the information and choices for this type of cancer appears to be much more advanced. Whilst I will always be interested in the breast cancer world, let’s face it – they have plenty of high profile support and fundraising streams.
That’s why I’m so proud to remain part of a charity that is solely dedicated to this one disease. It’s why I will continue to campaign for screening, early diagnosis and awareness until the day I die. I do it in honour of my mum, my grandma and my many lovely friends lost to lung cancer because they were too young and too fit.”