It was around Christmas 2016 when I started having trouble swallowing food. The problem continued so I went to see a doctor. I was examined and given tablets for acid re-flux but was also sent for a routine chest X-Ray at Burton Queens Hospital. Shortly after visiting the doctor I developed a persistent cough and was struggling to catch my breath.
A few days after I had the chest X-Ray I was sent for a CT scan due to reports suggesting that I had shadowing on one of my lungs. Shortly after the CT scan a needle biopsy was performed and a small tissue sample was taken from a lump that was found in my neck above my collar bone which was from one of my swollen lymph nodes. I was then asked to have a PET scan at Nottingham for further investigation.
In March 2017 our lives changed forever. At just 27 years old I was given the dreadful news that I had terminal Stage lV lung cancer that had metastasized to my lymph nodes and bones. It was just the other day that me and my now husband were planning our wedding but all I could think about was how long I had left to live. The consultant said that I had less than a year or a few at most with the help of treatment. The news was very overwhelming considering I am a non-smoker and had shown no obvious signs or symptoms. I decided to start treatment straight away and had 3 grueling rounds of chemotherapy which left me mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted.
During my treatment I was referred for an MRI scan. We were just coming to terms with the first diagnosis when I was told that the cancer had metastasized to parts of my brain. This just felt like another big kick when I was already feeling down. Another needle biopsy was performed shortly after to test whether or not I had cancer with ALK genetic mutation. The results came back ALK-positive and it was at this point that the Christie Hospital in Manchester decided to take over my case and treat me.
I am currently taking part in a clinical trial and have oral targeted therapy called Brigatinib. At the moment I am doing well. The cancer has shrunk considerably and I have no side effects. I feel as though I have been given a second chance at life thanks to advanced medical treatment that is available. I still find it difficult at times but my husband’s everlasting support and love sees me through. He has been my absolute rock throughout this difficult journey and refuses to ever leave my side. We have certainly become closer over the past 6 months and my love for him will be forever eternal. I always fear for the unknown as everything is so uncertain but I try not to look too far ahead.
Having cancer has definitely put things into prospective for me and made me realize what’s really important in life. I’m thankful every day for waking up each morning and I appreciate the simplest of things that I may have previously took for granted. I have chosen to do the things that make me happy which will enable me to live a full and happy life. Me and my husband recently returned from a cruise around the Mediterranean earlier this year for our honeymoon. We plan to visit Croatia and Iceland next year as well as planning lots of other little adventures with our dog, Roxy.
I wanted to share my story because although lung cancer is the number 1 cause of cancer related deaths, I feel this cancer receives far too little attention. Cancer doesn’t discriminate and doesn’t care whether you’re a smoker or not but with the help of others we can raise more awareness and encourage more research which will enable more survivors.
Hope is something that I never really had or needed before but I now hang onto this so very tightly every single day.