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4th March 2021

Sarahs lung cancer story

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Cheryl Sweeney loved being a mum. She was happiest at home surrounded by her family – her three children Sarah, Rob and Judith, granddaughter Evelyn and husband Danny. Sarah shares her memories of her mum and hopes to raise the awareness that lung cancer can affect anybody.

“My mum loved being our mum, she was a complete natural. An immensely caring and selfless woman and a truly wonderful mother to us. 

The relationship we had was incredible, she was my best friend. I was so lucky to have a fantastic friendship with Mum. As we got older, us girls (Mum, Judith and I) enjoyed girly trips to London full of shopping, catching a show, staying overnight and enjoying a few glasses of wine. We just loved each other’s company, whether that be out and about or just in my kitchen at home, there was always a good conversation and giggle to be had.

In November 2017, Mum developed a slight tickly cough that just didn’t go away. I had hardly even noticed she had a cough as it was so slight. We had all heard the radio adverts that said go to the doctors if you have a cough longer that 3 weeks, so we noted it and said we should keep an eye on it but just didn’t think anything more of it.

Shortly after, we went on a family holiday. We had a great time, but Mum just wasn’t right, she had a headache most of the week and not much of an appetite. She put it down to ‘holiday stress’ as she hated flying!

As we moved into Christmas and towards the end of 2017, we noticed mum had started losing weight. She was a petite, slim woman, so didn’t have much weight to lose, but it was falling off her fast.

Route to diagnosis

Mum had a stubborn streak to say the least, she was reluctant about going to the GP about anything. On the 23rd December 2017, Mum begrudgingly took her first trip to the GP concerned it was something serious.

Blood tests were done and came back fine. As Mum was quite fit, a non-smoker and aged just 55, she didn’t fit the ‘typical’ criteria of someone at risk of lung cancer, so was just given antibiotics. But we now know that her symptoms of a persistent cough, loss of appetite, fatigue, and losing weight are all common symptoms of lung cancer.

A chest x-ray in January 2018 suggested a very bad chest infection, after this, the doctor was convinced she’d suddenly developed asthma. So, it was a complete shock when she received a diagnosis of lung cancer on 27th February 2018.

Typically, as so many people still think, I thought lung cancer only affected people who smoked. I never would have thought for a moment that my mum – someone who never smoked – would get lung cancer.

To have started with a small cough in November 2017 to then be diagnosed with lung cancer that had spread to several places in her body by February 2018 was just madness. We could not believe it.

Just 35 days

After mum realised that her prognosis wasn’t good, she was heartbroken. Heartbroken and worried for us; me, Judith, Rob, and Dad – she was most upset that our lives would be torn in two. That just sums Mum up, she was always more concerned about us rather than herself.

Just 35 days after being diagnosed with lung cancer, Mum passed away on 2nd April 2018. As deaths go, it was as peaceful as anyone would want with my dad and my sister by her side. I’d only said goodbye an hour before she went, had I known, I would never have left that day.

She really was a fantastic mum to me and my siblings and a fantastic wife to my dad. Mum had an incredibly special relationship with my daughter Evelyn, her first granddaughter. She loved being ‘Nana’ and I’ll never forget seeing that love she had for Evelyn. She spent so much time with her and was a huge part of her life, if only for a small amount of time.

As we approach nearly three years since her passing, we are still devastated and miss her terribly. But we carry our memories of her with us in everything we do. 

I spent so many hours reading up on lung cancer after Mum was diagnosed and came across Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. Since losing Mum, I keep up to date with the charity’s research projects and progresses in the world of lung cancer. They are doing so much to make sure people are diagnosed earlier so that hopefully, people won’t have the same experiences we had.

If you or your loved ones have noticed any symptoms like a persistent cough, weight loss and fatigue, no matter how small you might think they are, please go to your GP.

If your gut tells you something still isn’t right, get a first, second, even third opinion. My mum thought she’d be ‘making a fuss’ by going to the GP, but please know you’re not making a fuss. It took a long time to get my mum’s diagnosis, but lung cancer does not stop or give you time to deliberate whether you should see a GP or not.”