31st August 2022

Sharon, Helen and Julie’s #needtoscreen story

View all Awareness

The #needtoscreen campaign hit home for Isle of Man sisters Helen and Julie, after their brother Paul died from lung cancer at 56, just eight weeks after receiving his lung cancer diagnosis. Here, Helen, Julie and Paul’s partner, Sharon, share their reasons for backing our campaign. 

‘Paul was a very active family man. He had four children and three young grandsons that he loved spending his time with,’ Sharon recalls. ‘He was a wonderful partner, so loving and supportive with a wicked sense of humour, we were all devastated when we heard the news of his lung cancer. 

Just five months before his diagnosis, Paul had quit smoking. He did it cold turkey, despite having smoked for years – but he wanted to make more positive life choices.

The doctors estimated that his tumour had been growing for potentially two years. As a former smoker, over 55, he had the potential to receive an early diagnosis with a lung health check. However, we live in the Isle of Man and lung health checks are not currently available.’  

A national screening programme for lung cancer is so important to all of us. Paul didn’t develop any symptoms until the latter stages. If he had the opportunity of being screened, he may still be here, and we could have enjoyed many more years of retirement together.

Sharon, Paul’s partner

Early diagnosis is key. With an early diagnosis, more treatment options are available, giving better outcomes for those affected by the disease.   

A big step towards improving early diagnosis rates came when the NHS rolled out the Targeted Lung Health Check programme in 2019. Currently, this only operates in England. That’s why Sharon, Helen and Julie are joining us in our #NeedtoScreen campaigning for a screening programme which we hope would roll out across the Isle of Man, as well as the UK.

Paul’s diagnosis

Sharon went on to say: ‘As a family, we never thought that Paul could be so ill.

The first noticeable change came in August 2021, he was feeling tired and lost a bit of weight, but he was active and always working. We didn’t even think twice about it. But as the months progressed, Paul began to notice even more changes in his health.  

In October the same year, he started feeling sweaty at night. In November, he began to look a little different. He was tired, his skin slightly grey and he’d developed an irritating cough. By December he decided to go to the doctors, just to make sure he was ok, not because he thought he was ill.  

Paul had his bloods taken and was sent for a chest x-ray. The bloods revealed he was anaemic which his doctors gave him tablets for. The x-ray found a shadow and he was set for an urgent CT scan.  

One day later we were invited to an appointment with a Respiratory Consultant. We knew something was wrong, but hearing he had stage four lung cancer came as a complete shock, he still didn’t have any symptoms.  

That appointment changed our lives forever. Paul was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, and it had spread to his adrenal glands, liver, spleen, thigh bone and he had metastasis in his brain. It was terminal and he had had just turned 56. 

Sharon, Paul’s partner

‘From diagnosis to Paul’s passing he received no treatment. There was only eight weeks from being diagnosed to his death.  

Even throughout, Paul remained positive as he could and was thinking about everyone else.’ 

Why screening is so important

The trio of women are determined to increase awareness of a national screening programme following Paul’s death.

Paul’s older sister Helen said: ‘It’s awful to think that a national screening programme isn’t available for the largest cancer killer on the Isle of Man.  

Having survived cancer twice due to breast cancer screening, I know how important it is to get yourself checked, even if you feel well.  

We all miss Paul terribly; he was our baby brother and had such a cheeky sense of humour. Our family of four siblings, including Julie, Alan, Paul and myself were exceptionally close. 

As he grew up, he was always there for all of us, babysitting our children and helping where he could. He was like that right up until the end and it wasn’t until that December that he started to look less like himself. 

Paul would have been eligible for screening if it had been available. If his lung cancer was caught sooner, he would have had more access to care and potential treatment. As it stood, he never got that opportunity and died before he could start the planned treatment the March after he passed.’ 

Screening is a must. If Paul had been screened, we could have had more time with him. Losing our baby brother has been like losing a child. 

Helen, Paul’s sister