23rd June 2021

Michelle Spotted the Difference

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Many people do not know back pain can be a symptom of lung cancer. It is a symptom that many of us just see as a sign of getting older. Fortunately, Michelle didn’t just accept her back pain and she made an appointment to see her doctor. Michelle went on to be diagnosed with early stage lung cancer and had surgery to remove the tumour. She is now part of our Spot the Difference campaign urging others who have symptoms which are unusual for them to take action like she did.

I’ve always had really good health. Then I’d got really bad back ache and I just couldn’t think of any reason why I’d have it. I couldn’t think of any physical activity that I’d done that could have caused it, and equally it wasn’t lack of physical activity because I was walking the dogs a lot and being as active as usual.

I just couldn’t explain what it could be so I went to the doctor. I know millions of people must go with a bad back to the doctor but she was great. She was great throughout. They took blood and sent those off. They came back negative so she thought I must have pulled a muscle. However, she then asked me a crucial question. She said – ‘What do you want me to do next?’. I asked for a scan because I was convinced that there’s something wrong… and there was.

I was, and I still am if I’m honest, I was absolutely floored and speechless that was I diagnosed with lung cancer because I don’t smoke and have never smoked. My partner has never smoked – none of my family and actually none of my friends smoke.

I had no idea back pain was a symptom – I had no idea.

Michelle Gilliver

I think most people would know breathlessness would be, and a cough but I didn’t know that having a bad back can be a sign of lung cancer. I’d got no idea of that. In fact, I didn’t know much about lung cancer at all so when I got my diagnosis, I thought I was being given a death sentence. I did. I thought I probably had about 5 years max. at best.

But this was not the case…

They took out the whole lobe through Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). They just took the cancer out because they caught it so early. I didn’t need chemotherapy. There was no radiotherapy involved. I still find that a bit of a mind-boggle if I’m honest but it happened and they could do that because I went to the doctor, and it was caught so early.

If I’d have thought – Oh, nearly everyone gets backache at some point in their lives. I’m in my 50s – and just ignored it, the likelihood, well, not the likelihood, the definite – it would have progressed to a higher stage and then possibly another higher stage – all for the sake of just going to the doctors.

If I’d have left it, if I’d have ignored the back pain – because that was the only symptom I had – it would have progressed and then could have been, well, I don’t know what the different story would be because I luckily didn’t have to know a different story. My story is – it was taken out, it’s gone, and I’ve got on with my life.”