4th February 2023

World Cancer Day: I trained to be a nurse after my lung cancer diagnosis

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Kay Murgatroyd first shared her lung cancer story as part of our #HeadHigh campaign in 2017. She was just 19-year-old at the time after being diagnosed with ALK+ lung cancer aged just 17. At the time, Kay shared her ambition of becoming a nurse. Nearly six years on, that has now become a reality. As part of our World Cancer Day series, Kay shares the highs and lows of the past six years.

“I think it’s fair to say no one expects to be diagnosed with lung cancer when you’re 17 years old.

“My doctor had sent to me to A&E after I went to see him with a cough and breathlessness. In hospital, we discovered I had a collapsed lung. I was in hospital for a week and left with a ‘probable cancer diagnoses. Probable became real about a month later with more tests and biopsies confirming the inconceivable.

“My initial thought was that I was going to die. I started on chemotherapy. It was tough but I then learned I had a genetic mutation. This meant I could have a new type of treatment called a targeted therapy. It meant I only had to take a daily tablet instead of a gruelling chemo regime. It also meant I could go to university where I studied nursing.

I qualified as a nurse in April 2021, despite my diagnosis and despite Covid; I had to shield for about four months at the start of the pandemic so ended up qualifying six months behind my university cohort.

“I am now working on an elective surgery ward. Patients undergoing elective surgeries have had to shield which, during Covid, was deemed to be the safest environment for me. The surgeries are quite varied, so I see a wide range of procedures, which is really interesting and keep me busy!

“Life is easier now than when I was first diagnosed and that is down to the progress being made in treating lung cancer. I’ll be honest though it isn’t just plain sailing. I had a tough 2022 with seven different hospital admissions due to infections. On one occasion, I was in hospital for seven weeks which was hard on us all.

“Despite this, I remain positive and hope 2023 will be a better year for me, and that I can get back to working as a nurse. I was interested in doing nursing before my lung cancer diagnosis and was studying health & social care at Doncaster college. However, having lung cancer made me want to pursue nursing even more, because I know how it feels as a patient as well as a nurse.

“I received such incredible care and support from my nurses, especially Shona Tuttin who was my nurse when I was first diagnosed. I want to give back for the care and treatment I had received and help others through their illnesses.

“I’ve also just started my own aesthetics business this year. I have plans. I have a life to live, and lung cancer is not going to stop me.”