4th February 2023

World cancer day: How my early diagnosis changed my perception of lung cancer

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Many people believe there is no coming back from a lung cancer diagnosis. That’s certainly what Tracey imagined until she had her own personal experience of the disease. As part of our World Cancer Day series, Tracey shares how her understanding is now very different after having had her lung cancer caught early.

“Before my diagnosis, I believed if cancer was in your lungs, it was going to be too late. I now know that isn’t the case.

“I was diagnosed with stage 1 non-small cell lung cancer in January 2020. My symptoms began in October when I started to feel a pressure in my chest. Unable to get GP appointment, I booked in with a nurse practitioner.

“There was a lot of back and forth, trying different inhalers to try and relieve this pressure but, after a month with no change, the nurse arranged for me to have an electrocardiogram (ECG) and chest x-ray.

“I went for these on 23rd December. Then, with it being just two days before Christmas, I went to grab some last-minute bits from the supermarket. I was on my way home when my GP had called. He said there was a mass on my left lung and was referring me for urgent investigation.

“I felt like the world had stopped turning. All I could think about was what the hell was this thing in my body! I went through a multitude of tests including an awful, and unsuccessful, CT guided biopsy over the next few weeks to try and find that out.

“The decision was then made to have surgery to remove the section of lung containing the tumour, along with lymph nodes and that once removed, they would be tested. I felt relief knowing this thing was finally going to be out of my body because it had been an incredibly difficult and anxious few months.

“I had been told after my CT scan back in December that the doctors were 50/50 that the mass was cancer. They therefore, would treat it as it was so I believed I had lung cancer, and because they couldn’t officially confirm, I was left in limbo with worst-case scenarios running round my head on repeat. 

“I couldn’t even bring myself to say the word ‘cancer’. All my experiences with cancer were bad; all loved ones who had had cancer were diagnosed too late and their treatment was only palliative.

However, as soon as I had the surgery and the results came back, that negative and heart-breaking experience of cancer changed. The results showed my cancer was contained to one section of my lung and had not spread to any lymph nodes. It was caught so early I didn’t even need any follow up chemo.

“It’s now nearly three years since my operation and life is good. It can still play on my mind; they took the cancer out of my body but that doesn’t remove it from your mind. But I now grab every opportunity. If there is something I want to do, I do it rather than putting it off. My bucket list is my daily life now and I’m not waiting for some bad news to start it.

One of the things on that list is to support the fantastic work that Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation does in educating and encouraging people who feel something is not quite right to persist in seeking medical help.

“I became aware of the charity at my first appointment with the respiratory consultant. They gave me the My Lung Cancer booklet. This booklet became my bible. It was so informative and useful in understanding my diagnosis and taking me through each step along the way. 

“It was through this that I found the charity’s website and forum. Being able to talk to others going through similar experiences was so helpful. It allowed me to say how I really was feeling without having to be strong and putting a brave face on in front of my family and friends. 

“I am so grateful for all the support I got through my diagnosis, and I’m even more grateful that my lung cancer was caught so early. I’m now experiencing life with a newfound freedom, and I want to do everything I can to help others do the same.”