19th March 2023

Practical and positive – that’s how I cope with my daughter’s lung cancer diagnosis

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Being told your 17-year-old daughter has stage 4 lung cancer is something you never expect to happen. Yet, in May 2016, this was the reality Aileen Murgatroyd had to face. As part of our Mother’s Day series, Aileen shares what’s been like to watch her daughter, Kay, live with lung cancer and what she has been doing to remain positive.

“It’s every mother’s worse nightmare to learn your child has an incurable illness. The fact that Kay is living with stage 4 lung cancer was even more incomprehensible.

“Obviously when we first learnt of Kay’s diagnosis, we were in utter despair. But then you become practical, positive, and determined. For me, I needed to know everything I could about Kay’s condition, including all available treatments and the latest research.

“I’m on the worldwide Facebook support group for ALK+ lung cancer where we share tips, successes, and losses. I’m hoping to go to British Thoracic Oncology Group’s annual meeting in Belfast in April and the ALK+ conference in Philadelphia in July. I was unable to get to their conference in Denver last July as Kay was having surgery.

In 2020, we started raising money for research specifically into ALK+ lung cancer and are now working with Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation and its dedicated research grants committee to identify which projects to fund. We’re raised just under £50,000 to date and are always planning our next fundraising event.

“Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation has played a big part of Kay’s experience. It was the charity’s forum that introduced me to fellow advocate, Sally Hayton, who has been a great support to us.

“It was also Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation that educated me about the lack of research funding in the UK. The charity also encouraged us both to advocate and I accompanied Kay when she took part in the charity’s HeadHigh campaign. This inspired us to continue to raise awareness and just try and make a difference. Kay’s story and our research could prevent another mother going through what we have gone through.

A Mother’s Pride

“I am so extremely proud of Kay and how she handles everything that gets thrown at her – from when she was first diagnosed to a difficult last year where she was in and out of hospital.

She has never wanted to be treated differently and was so determined to go to university and become a nurse. The fact that she has done that – despite her diagnosis and despite Covid – just fills me with pride.

“I used to question if Kay would make to 18, then 21 but I don’t think like that now. We just take it a day at a time and just live our normal lives. We have a good relationship but, like most mothers and daughters, it can be challenging at times. We’re both stubborn!

“This Mother’s Day, I’ll hopefully have a nice lunch with Kay and my son, Ewan. He’s at university in Manchester so we might pop over there, but it depends on what’s happening with Kay. A few weeks ago, we learned that Kay has had some progression in her chest wall. We’re currently waiting to hear if she qualifies for the Holt trial for Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT).

“It was devastating news as she had planned to return to work but that’s been paused until we know our next steps. If she doesn’t qualify for the trial, we will look into funding private SBRT. I just want her to be in a position where she can get back to her life. I want her back at work, enjoying her friends, having nights out and going on holiday – the things every 24-year-old should be able to do – and as her mum, I’ll do everything I can to make that happen.”