Working in the construction industry since he was 15, and smoking for many years, Paul was at a greater risk of getting lung cancer and even though he was first told his lung cancer was incurable, one man made all the difference….
I was a tower crane operator in the construction industry for 40 years. When I look back at the black smoke clouds that surrounded us when we worked, and the diesel fumes from the machinery, I suppose it’s no real surprise that I got lung cancer. Every morning, we would clamber through a smoke cloud. That said, it was still a huge shock. My wife and I were devastated, especially when they told us it was inoperable.
I had two tumours, one in the centre of my chest, near my heart valve and the other was on my clavicle and they said both were inoperable. But they had a plan.
The plan was for me to have 20 sessions of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, both together and it did the trick; both tumours ‘dropped’ and the surgeon then believed he could perform a lobotomy and remove the lymph nodes in my chest and take it all away.
I remember saying to him if you think you can do it, then go ahead and do it. And he did! I came round after surgery and he was sitting on the end of my bed. He said “I was wondering when you were going to come round?” I asked him if everything went ok and he nodded. Everything is great, he said. He got every single thing that he needed to get out. I was thrilled.
I am so grateful to him and to so many who have supported me through my diagnosis and treatment, especially my wonderful lung cancer nurse, Victoria. She was there whenever I needed her and I think I could probably still ring her up now, over six years later, if I had any worries or questions and she’d know exactly who I was and make time to speak to me.
She also introduced me to Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, which is a fantastic organisation. I attended one of its lung cancer information days and my surgeon was actually one of the speakers. He was sharing all the advances that are being made in lung cancer surgery, how less invasive it is and how quicker people are recovering. It’s just incredible.
An important message
I am now in the position where I want to help fellow construction workers to understand the risk of the environment we worked in and the damage that can do to your lungs. Things have improved nowadays; for example they handle chemicals and asbestos with the respect it needs but back in my time working there, we didn’t.
I retired at 66. I was on massive jobs up and down the country. I was at Sellafield for five years. I was in London on the Canary Wharf tower surrounded by chemicals, smoke and fumes and I was certainly not alone so if you start feeling unwell, if you’ve got a cough, you’re getting breathless, you’re losing weight, you should go to the doctors and just check. Only takes a few minutes and it could save your life.”