Nick is passionate to raise awareness of one of the lesser-known symptoms of lung cancer – shoulder pain. For months, he was in unbearable pain. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t lie down. He couldn’t pick up his three-year-old son. Doctors and specialists just put it down to wear and tear. It was only when he started to get breathless that they started to put the symptoms together…
I remember quite clearly when the shoulder pain started. I was in a lesson, writing on the board and I had a sudden pain in my shoulder. At the time, I thought I needed to get a bit fitter!
But then I actually phoned the doctor fairly soon after because, it was in half term and we had gone to Kew Gardens. I ended up having to carry my then three-year-old around most of Kew Gardens and the pain just got worse. It was affecting my sleep. I couldn’t lie down to sleep.
The phone calls to the doctor probably went on for about three months because understandably, the doctor had said it should settle down within three months. After all, you wouldn’t immediately think shoulder pain in a 45-year-old would be lung cancer.
The doctor then referred me to a shoulder specialist. I initially there was going to be about a three month wait but being in so much pain, I really pushed. I phoned the secretary of the specialist frequently and tried to describe how much pain I was in. I think one point I cried down the phone explaining how I could not sleep and begged them to do something. She very kindly then really pushed things through and got the CT scan organised.
The specialist thought that it might just be a bit of wear and tear and thought it could be cured with just an injection. However, I was told just before the injection happened that the level of pain I was in didn’t really match up to what they were seeing on the ultrasound CT. But they decided to go ahead because it should help
On reflection, I do really wish that the specialist had been aware that this could come from something like lung cancer, where the level of deterioration of my shoulder isn’t really matching up to the level of pain and begin to consider some other explanation. I appreciate it’s so hard for doctors and specialists to know everything, to be aware of all these possible symptoms but that was sort of a bit of a key one.
The injection didn’t really help and, by then, I was also starting to get breathless. I went to doctor and, at this point, he looked a little concerned. He gave me a inhaler and some steroids but said if it didn’t work in three days to come back, which I did. That was when he sent me for a chest x-ray and we finally started down the road to diagnosis.
The interesting thing was the shoulder x-ray I had near the start of all this hadn’t picked anything up. However, when they looked back a couple of months later, you can actually see a bit of the lung on the corner of the x-ray and see a little bit of fluid on the lung which had been causing the pain in my shoulder.
It was within about two weeks of starting treatment, I immediately started to feel better. The pain started to go down and is continuing to reduce. I’m getting stronger again.
I’m also very much a hopeful person. Anything could happen and so much is being done in terms of research. I like to say there is currently no cure for my condition. Currently.