7th February 2022

Nicola’s lung cancer story

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Lung cancer was the furthest thing from Nicola’s mind when she first coughed up blood in September 2019. But, after the symptom persisted, she booked an appointment with her GP as she knew something wasn’t right.

“My doctor told me that he couldn’t see my symptoms being anything sinister as I was young, healthy and didn’t smoke”, she recalled.

“He said it sounded like a chest infection and gave me antibiotics. After the course of treatment, I was still coughing up blood and my breathlessness was getting worse. I was sent for a chest x-ray and that came back clear, so it was thought my symptoms were caused by allergies and occupational asthma due to my work as a commercial cleaner.”

It then took another 20 months for Nicola to receive a diagnosis of a lung carcinoid tumour; a rare tumour disease of the lung, which is generally slow growing, and caused by neuroendocrine cells growing abnormally.

“I had never in a million years thought that I would get a form of cancer at 36 years old. Especially a lung tumour as I was a non-smoker who had never had any breathing issues until this point. 

“Getting diagnosed during the pandemic wasn’t great. I went to the consultant on my own and I could only name one person to visit me after surgery. I chose my dad – he would always say the right thing to make me feel better. Having to go through consultations and appointments alone left me feeling quite isolated for a long time.”

Nicola Kelly, from Glasgow, was originally scheduled for robotic keyhole surgery to remove the tumour but during the procedure, surgeons noticed that two lobes of her right lung had rotted away due to the cancerous tumour, leaving them with no choice but to perform a bilobectomy (the removal of two lobes of the lung).

“I was able to return home six days after the surgery” Nicola said. “I was told to stay on painkillers for the next three months and to get lots of rest.

“During this time my mum moved in with me and the kids. She looked after me, sorted out my medication, checked on me, cooked, cleaned, looked after the kids and much more. I would have been happy if she had moved in forever!

Nicola and her children, Sean and Sienna

“I will be an outpatient at the lung clinic for the next five years at least to keep a check on my recovery. I know I am very lucky; it’s been six months since my operation and I’m feeling better each day. I just want to kick on now, get my health back and make lots of special memories with my family.”

“I want to make people aware that if they do get breathless, tired, wheezy or experience coughing blood, you know your own body better than anyone. Visit your GP, get a second opinion, ask for more scans – it could save your life. I’d hate to think where I would be today if my tumour hadn’t been discovered.”