Sasha was diagnosed with incurable lung cancer just four days before Christmas 2018. She was understandably terrified and alone. She then saw our LikeMe campaign, featuring 10 women just like her – all living with lung cancer. It made her realise she wasn’t alone and, most importantly, gave her something she didn’t have – hope.
“It was quite difficult when I was first diagnosed. It was just before Christmas and it was in A&E on a Friday evening. I was told I had a tumour in my left lung that had spread to my spine, lymph nodes and pelvis. I was told to go home and wait for a telephone call because it was Christmas, and somebody would be in touch.
It was 10 days before someone got in touch and made an appointment for me to see a chest specialist.
The waiting was awful. You’re told you’ve got stage 4 lung cancer and you think that’s the end. You’re talking about months and you’re going to become really poorly quite soon. It’s very difficult to process.
Being 44 at the time, and a non-smoker, you ask ‘Why have I got this?’ and there was nobody around to answer those type of questions and you don’t want to go on the internet because there’s so much bad stuff on there. I didn’t want to frighten myself even more.
I couldn’t see a future. I didn’t think there was any hope.
But I don’t feel like now. I do have hope and there is a future.
There’s so many different treatment available. There’s so many people living good lives with lung cancer.
Adjusting to the ‘new normal’
I am on a targeted therapy. I started treatment on a Monday and by Thursday of that week, my symptoms – a cough and some back pain – completely disappeared.
I had a great week but then the side effects started. I had a quite nasty rash on my face and quite an upset stomach for about four months. I lost about two stone in weight.
After 4-5 months though, things started to settle down as my body adjusted to the treatment. I’ve stopped taking the medication for the side effects now and have returned to work after taking six months off. I needed that time to process and adjust to a new life.
You can’t expect your life to be the same when you’re living with lung cancer, but you can still have a really normal life.Sasha is living with incurable lung cancer
You tend to live your life in 3-4 month blocks, in between scans, because you don’t know if the cancer is going to start again. I try not to think too much about the scans though. There’s no point in making yourself ill waiting for scan results or test result because you can’t change them. The best thing you can do to live with your lung cancer is get on with your life while you can.
It’s taken me time to get to this point though.
I’ve got a very supportive family. I’ve got some great friends. I’ve worked for my company for 21 years and they’ve been extremely supportive and that’s really, really helped.
I’ve also had some counselling which has helped as well to process the thoughts and the feelings you have. It’s very much that you go through a grief process, and if you don’t address it, I think it makes life more difficult.
I’m not saying I don’t have bad days because I certainly do, and I let myself have bad days, or bad moments.
I did try to put on a brave face but going through the 4-5 months after my diagnosis, I realised that didn’t work trying to hold in my emotions. So now, if I need to cry, get upset, get angry, I get it out of my system and I always feel better afterwards.
When you feel well, you can forget that you’ve got it. Then it hits you all of a sudden. It’s a massive thing. you try and get on with your life and then it hits you. It just knocks you for six.
I’m still me
When you tell people you’ve got lung cancer, they don’t know what to say. They worst thing somebody has said to me was they asked me ‘how long have you got to live’. Somebody also said, ‘Oh, my friend died of that’.
I chose not to ask for a prognosis because I don’t want to live my life to a pre-planned timescale. It’s when people try to relate to that by saying the knew someone who died of lung cancer, it just brings back the reality of what you’re dealing with.
But I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I don’t feel sorry for myself, so I don’t want anyone else to feel sorry for me.
I just want people to treat me normally. I’m no different. I’m still me. I just living with lung cancer.”