4th February 2020

Ruthra Coventry

View all Patient Stories

After having recurring chest infections, Ruthra began to worry that something wasn’t quite right, so she asked to be referred to hospital. Even though she’s a doctor, she was stunned when she found out she had lung cancer. A year on from having curative surgery, she wanted to mark the anniversary in a special way.  

She describes her experience: “I was constantly getting chest infections and I had a cough that would not stop. I just put it down to having a child in nursery who was bringing all the bugs home.

I carried on as normal; life is busy working as a consultant anaesthetist. In the summer of 2018, I ended up in A&E as I couldn’t breathe deeply due to a sharp pain in my chest. I was treated for a chest infection, but I then started to worry about why I was getting ill so much. So, I went to my GP and asked to be referred to hospital. 

Surgery and diagnosis

I felt like I was a timewaster when I was at the hospital, but I knew that I had to get my symptoms investigated.

After a CT scan, I was diagnosed with Bronchiectasis* and I was told a mass had been found in my right lung. I couldn’t believe it. Even then I didn’t imagine it would be cancer. I had further scans and a bronchoscopy to try to determine what the mass was, but it came back as inconclusive.  

As I was having so many infections and due to its location, doctors decided to remove the mass, so I had a right upper lobectomy at the beginning of 2019. It was after surgery that the doctors discovered that it was stage 1 lung cancer.

I was stunned when they told me that I had lung cancer, despite working in the medical field. Even when being investigated, it never crossed my mind that I could have lung cancer aged 38.

I was always keeping active with yoga and running, plus keeping my 4-year-old and husband entertained! Thankfully, my lung cancer was caught very early. Luckily no other cancer treatment was required.

Unfortunately, I had pneumonia and a pleural effusion (build-up of water on the lungs) shortly after surgery so I was readmitted to hospital. I was treated with intravenous antibiotics and the fluid was drained.

Ruthra Coventry

When my friends and family found out about my lung cancer, let’s just say it dropped a few jaws. Most were shocked, I think it scared them that someone my age could get lung cancer. 

It was eight months before I was slowly returning to work. A year later I still have some pain that can get worse with infections. 

Giving back

I got great information and support from the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation website and forum. I wanted to give something back to them by fundraising but also raising awareness that anyone can get lung cancer.

I want to fight this stereotype that lung cancer is just caused by smoking, I have found this perception to be present in both the medical profession and in the general public. This thinking needs to change.

When it was coming up to one year after my surgery, I wanted to do something to mark the day, so I decided to chop off my hair! I cut off 15 inches of my hair to donate it to the Little Princess Trust who provide real hair wigs for children and young people who have been affected by hair loss, and we raised over £3,000 for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

If I hadn’t have gone to the GP when I did, my story would be very different now. Thankfully, life is returning to normal after a year of being physically and mentally drained. If you have even the slightest worry, I can’t stress enough, please get checked out”.

*Bronchiectasis is a condition where the airways of the lungs become unusually widened. You can read more about this here.