Avid runner and long-haul cabin crew member, Warren Gray, was 44 when he received his Stage 3a lung cancer diagnosis. As a non-smoker, Warren is passionate about raising awareness of the disease and breaking the stigma so more people can receive an earlier diagnosis.
“It was only because of Covid that I became aware of a persistent cough, otherwise I may not have noticed it so much or be overly concerned.
Having known the symptoms, I went to my GP last October/November, who arranged for an x-ray. This was then followed up with a CT scan after my x-ray came back with abnormalities. The CT scan later confirmed there was a suspected malignancy and from there it was a rollercoaster.
The first step was coming to terms with my cancer but this took quite a while to accept. I was angry and in disbelief. I didn’t know how I was going to tell my husband or parents. I was running 20 miles plus a week, and I didn’t feel unwell. I kept asking myself why was this happening to me. Everyone says that I was and am a picture of health.
I was also terrified. I was scared I was going to die. I was scared that I wouldn’t get the chance to grow old.
However, despite all these emotions, I am also thankful. I am thankful that I was aware of the symptoms as this helped me get diagnosed quicker and start on treatment, and once we had a plan of action, I certainly felt more in control. This helped me to start accepting my diagnosis and focus on moving past it.
After receiving the results of my CT scan, I was referred to a respiratory specialist who arranged a spirometry test, PET scan and a biopsy. The biopsy was inconclusive but the team were confident this was cancer and suggested surgery to remove it. I had a robotic upper left lobectomy in January 2022 and, incredibly, was home two days later. I feel very fortunate because I had amazing medical care from the fantastic teams at James Paget, Norfolk and Norwich hospitals.
After my surgery, I had chemotherapy to mop up any cells that might have been left behind. This was the worst part of the journey for me.
Cycle one was fine but then I felt very unwell the following treatments, but I had a brilliant team of chemotherapy nurses and my oncologist who helped me through it. Although it was horrible, I had my eyes on the prize and I just kept telling myself that this is only temporary, it’s not forever.
I then went on to have radiotherapy to the surgical area as a precaution due to the challenging position of my cancer. It was intensive as I went every day, Monday to Friday for four weeks but it was absolutely fine. The team make you feel at ease, explain everything clearly and I had no side effects. At one point I was even asking if it was working because I felt so well but they assured me it was. As of now, I’m currently NED (no evidence of the disease) and in remission.
I feel so strongly that lung cancer doesn’t discriminate it doesn’t care if your young or old, if you smoke or have never smoked. Since having this I’ve met so many other people in their 40s who have been diagnosed and feel it’s important to raise awareness and not just assume this is a smoker’s disease or happens to older people.
I’m very fortunate. I have an amazing support network and my husband has been there every step of the way. All my friends and family have been fantastic, helping to keep some normality during this time and still continuing to make me laugh.
Outside of my loved ones, I’ve found support in groups on social media that helped me connect with others experiencing the same things. Throughout this, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation was also a great help. The website has a wealth of information which was great to use because Google can be a scary place.
There is so much support out there wherever you are on your journey, for myself and also for my loves ones because this journey can be just as hard on them.
Despite my lung cancer diagnosis, I’m now leading a normal life. I’m running again which is one of my many passions. I’ve ran marathons before and it’s ironic that my cancer didn’t impact on my ability to run long distances. I even ran 7.5 miles before my lung cancer surgery just in case I wasn’t able to in the future. I just wanted to hold onto that feeling. However, just six months on from my surgery and I’ve just run five miles!
I am just so grateful I knew not to ignore a persistent cough. I made sure to follow up with my GP. Now I’m in a position where I have had lung cancer, but it hasn’t stopped me doing the things I love.”