Yvette Walker from Bamber Bridge, Lancashire, works as a part-time public health nurse. During lockdown, she was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. She shares her story of diagnosis during the pandemic to give hope to others like her, and to remind people that living well with lung cancer is possible.
“I was diagnosed in July 2020 with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer, and I am currently being treated with Osimertinib.
At the time of diagnosis, I was relatively fit for my age (60). I regularly enjoyed swimming 50 lengths at the pool and thought nothing of it.
I had noticed some occasional breathlessness which I mentioned to my rheumatologist who sent me for lung function tests, this was way back in January 2020. A small anomaly appeared on the test, so I was then referred for a CT scan which I had in early July 2020.
The breathlessness then became slightly more noticeable. Like many people during lockdown, I was working from home – I realised that as I was climbing the stairs to my office, I could feel a bit ‘puffed’, but quickly recovered. Whilst waiting for the CT scan, I had a telephone consultation with the surgery and was prescribed an inhaler and told a further test for asthma could take place when lockdown was over.
I had completely forgotten about my referral for the CT scan, and I carried on with life throughout lockdown. When I eventually remembered that the scan date was around the corner, I thought to myself ‘Do I actually need to go for this?’, as I felt so well.
It was a huge shock following my CT scan when my GP called to let me know a tumour of about 2 ½ inches had been found.
I was then put on the 4-week cancer diagnosis pathway and what a whirlwind I found myself on with further scans and tests. I was the first patient on the endoscopy unit to have a bronchoscopy and EBUS (Endobronchial Ultrasound) after the easing of lockdown restrictions.
Following this, I was found to have the EGFR mutation, which meant that targeted therapy was available for me. Osimertinib became more readily available on the NHS for people like me during the pandemic, so I started taking it on 7th August 2020. Thankfully, my first scan at 3 months post treatment was really encouraging, showing a reduction in the size of the tumour and affected surrounding lymph glands.
Living with lung cancer in the pandemic
Living through the pandemic with a lung cancer diagnosis has been challenging. There are good days and bad days. Shielding has been difficult at times, but I remain positive. Having my first covid vaccination was certainly a good day – I feel very privileged to have been given it.
I look forward to a slow release of lockdown and the day I can give my grandchildren big hugs. My husband Alan has been my rock throughout my diagnosis and treatment, when restrictions allow, we’ll be planning a trip away in our motorhome together.
At first, I wanted a quiet journey through my lung cancer treatment, but now I realise it’s important to spread the awareness that it is possible to live well with lung cancer.
I feel so well and continue to enjoy gardening and going for walks regularly – weather permitting! I can’t wait to go back to the pool when allowed and maybe work back up to my 50 lengths!
If you are experiencing any symptoms such as breathlessness like I did, please speak to your GP, however insignificant you feel your symptoms may be.
It might be nothing, but it might be a symptom of lung cancer, and something can only be done about it once you get that diagnosis. I’d be in a very different position today if I hadn’t gone for that CT scan back in July 2020.
You may think that a lung cancer diagnosis is final, a death sentence even, but there are so many treatment options now available that allow you to live well with lung cancer, just like I am doing.”