Mum of two, Rebecca, was diagnosed with stage 4 adenocarcinoma, the most common type of lung cancer, in October 2016. It starts in the mucus making gland cells in the lining of your airways. Like many patients, she is angry and hurt by the lack of research into lung cancer but thinks she knows the reasons behind it:
“I think at the moment because people die, and because people think it’s because they smoked, they aren’t so willing to donate to a charity like Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation or to research to help fund new drugs.
“There’s definitely a stigma attached to having lung cancer. People think it’s something that you’ve done to yourself, that you’ve given yourself lung cancer. I get asked quite a lot [if I smoked]. I understand why people ask but, as being a non-smoker, it can be quite upsetting.
“Like many, I knew very little about lung cancer before my diagnosis. I had a few relatives that died of it and, to me, it was a cancer that finished you off quite quickly. Sadly, looking at the statistics, that is largely true. The average prognosis for someone diagnosed with lung cancer is 200 days, just over six months. As recently as 2014, my fit and healthy Aunt was diagnosed in May and passed away in October.
“But there’s much more to it. I realise now that lung cancer affects people of all ages. It affects people who have smoked and who haven’t smoked so I’d really like to see more money going into research.”
“When I was initially diagnosed, I was given months. Then I tested positive for the EGFR mutation and I was given a little more hope. I am still here but I’m already on my second line of treatment. When this drug fails, there’ll be very little hope and ‘months’ will once again be my prognosis.”Becky doesn’t want months with her husband and children. She wants years.
When I was initially diagnosed, I was also given months. Then I tested positive for the EGFR mutation and I was given a little more hope. I came across many stage IV long-term survivors on social media and felt more positive for my prognosis, but I’m also very aware that death occurs shockingly quickly for some because the available treatments simply don’t work. Many patients are just too ill to have any treatment. I am still here and healthy 13 months later, but I’m already on my second line of treatment. When this drug fails there’ll be very little hope and ‘months’ will once again be my prognosis.
Rebecca’s friend, Helen, shares her hope:
“I think the key thing is lung cancer doesn’t just affect smokers. It can affect anyone, including women.”
Helen is right. Lung cancer is on the increase within women; 44 women die from the disease every day. That’s the equivalent to a London double decker bus (minus one); we lose a double decker’s worth of women to lung cancer every single day.
It kills more women than breast and ovarian cancers combined and, according to a study earlier in the year, more young women will die of lung cancer this year than young men so it is vital that women know they are at risk and are aware of the signs and symptoms of lung cancer. This is why Becky wanted to share her story:
“I hope it just raises awareness that it affects people of all walks of life – whether you’re a smoker, have been a smoker, or are a non-smoker, if you’re young or old, male or female.”