Jo’s lung health check story
Jo was invited for a lung health check in 2019. At the time, she had no symptoms, felt fit and well and hadn’t smoked since she was a teenager. Despite this, Jo was diagnosed with early stage lung cancer and had surgery to successfully remove her tumour. She is now sharing her experience to encourage others to take up the opportunity if they are invited.
“When I went for my lung health check, I had no symptoms whatsoever. I was very active. I love to hike and swim. I was doing yoga regularly. There were no alarm bells so I guess it would have been very easy not to go, to think I didn’t need to go. However, I’ve always been one of those people that if somebody says ‘Here’s a test, and it’s free. We’ll check you out’ I think ‘Yeah, sure! Why not?‘
I was phoned about a week after my appointment with the nurse to ask me to come along for a scan. I had been told that might happen but in a very reassuring way. The nurse explained that this is an ultra cautious program where we want to be ultra-cautious so many people will be invited for a scan so I was not nervous about going.
Lung cancer certainly hadn’t crossed my mind whatsoever. Even when they told me they had found a nodule, I just didn’t think I would have lung cancer. I didn’t see myself at any kind of risk. I suppose the only thing would be thinking about my teenage years when I did smoke but that was such a long time ago. Nevertheless, I went on to be diagnosed with early stage lung cancer.
I definitely did not realise that lung cancer was something you could have surgery for, and walk away. That never crossed my mind. I assumed initially that, if I had surgery, there would be chemotherapy and so on. It was all a bit of an unknown. It was only when the consultant I was speaking to used that word curative that I first thought I might just be cured!
I’m at the stage where I really can’t believe how lucky I have been. To be back now and feeling fit, joining in with things that make up the fabric of my life, is pretty amazing.
I’ve recently allowed myself to think ‘what if?’ and now I realise how cavalier I was being. I wasn’t taking this with the seriousness it warranted and that was because of the lack of symptoms and so on. I dread to think if I had delayed…
I do actually know of people who have not followed up on the invitation. I’ve spoken to a few people about my experience and it must have jogged their memory as they recall getting a letter but then didn’t do anything about it.
I suppose it’s understandable; we’re all so busy, or we don’t think it affects us, or perhaps we’re a little frightened by what they might find so you don’t want to go there. But my experience says – ‘You don’t know what you don’t know!’
Whether it’s something or nothing, the earlier you find out about it, the better. And maybe it’s about valuing yourself too. We’ve got to value our health so there’s an onus on us to do our bit. If we’re being told that it would be a good thing to have a check up, then have it.”