31st July 2019

Marie Unsworth

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Keen cyclist, Marie, was originally diagnosed with lung cancer* in June 2019, despite first showing symptoms over six months previously. Fortunately, she was still diagnosed early to have surgery and is recovering well:

“My symptoms started with a dry tickly cough in November 2018. I then had many chest infections and shortness of breath, as well as pneumonia & sepsis over the coming months.

Despite this, it wasn’t until April 2019 to understand why; a bronchoscopy revealed my lower lungs had collapsed & there was something blocking my airways. It was a very worrying time, especially when I was told on several occasions that it could be something serious.

Further tests confirmed it was something serious; I had a tumour in my lung on 4th June 2019. I was told it’s a probable carcinoid tumour, but we are currently awaiting histology results to confirm this. 

I’m sure many people will be surprised that someone as active as myself could be diagnosed with lung cancer. I’ve always enjoyed an active, outdoor lifestyle. I’m a keen cyclist, with many 100k events ridden for fun and, on a good week, I cycle around 60k in social rides. The month before surgery, I cycled the Hebridean Way 185 miles over 6 days!

Marie is keen to raise awareness that anyone can get lung cancer

I’m also a keen swimmer, preferring long distance open water swims. I’ve enjoyed several 1 and 2 mile swims in reservoirs and lakes, as well as a brilliant 6-mile swim down the River Dart.

However, when I was told my diagnosis, I just thought it made sense. I had been voicing my concerns from the outset, but was told my body was just struggling to recover from one infection to another. 

Positive thinking

Marie had surgery for lung cancer in July

My diagnosis obviously frightened me. However, I decided that no one was going to take my happiness away & remained realistic in as positive a way as I could. 

To do this, I need to understand more about what lay ahead. I found out about Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, when I did a Google search. I read lots of information on the website whilst trying to figure out myself what could be wrong with me.

I found people’s stories really interesting & heart breaking in equal measures. I found the ‘My Lung Surgery’ information booklet really helpful.

I had an open surgery thoracotomy to remove the two collapsed lobes in my right lung with the tumour lung (bi-lobectomy) & lymphadenectomy to remove the swollen lymph nodes. A rib got broken during surgery, I was told this could happen. My surgery was on 3rd July. Two days later, they removed my chest drain and I was home!

I’ve been amazed by my recovery from surgery. My pain has been less than expected. I’m not in pain now, more just stiff and uncomfortable.

I have had episodes of palpitations since being home, which needed monitoring in A&E. I’m going to be fitted with a 24-hour tape soon to try and capture these episodes.

It’s been a crazy few weeks. I still cannot believe that this could happen to me, that a fit, active, never smoker could get lung cancer.

When I first started coughing, I said that if this turns out to be lung cancer I will shout about it from the roof tops to raise awareness. That is why I wanted to share my story; to show that anyone can get lung cancer and that, if you are experiencing symptoms, to push for the appropriate tests.

I was lucky. Even though, it took eight months for me to be diagnosed, it was still early enough to have surgery. I want to try and help others be as lucky as me.


At the beginning of August, Marie had a call from her consultant to say that she had been misdiagnosed. Her histology did not show cancer, instead it showed aspergillosis.

Aspergillosis is a rare condition caused by aspergillus mould. There are several different types of aspergillosis. Most affect the lungs and cause breathing difficulties. For more information about aspergillosis, please visit the NHS website.