A Mother's Wish

(Blog #5)

Having spent a lovely Mother’s Day with my two girls at the weekend, like many others, my thoughts turned to my own mum who is no longer with us.  You see, 20 years ago we received the news that mum was terminally ill. Several visits to her GP due to constant coughing and difficulty swallowing, several courses of antibiotics that offered no relief, before being referred for a CT scan some time later - which delivered the devastating result. Lung Cancer.

Like a lot of people mum was diagnosed at a late stage and 15 short weeks later, on 11 November, my beautiful, caring, wonderful mum died. She had just turned 51.

For many years after her death I believed that lung cancer was just one of those cruel twists in life that happen, there was nothing that could be done to change things, it was too big an issue to tackle. But my mind was changed when, by chance I began working for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation – the only charity in the UK wholly dedicated to the defeat of lung cancer. 

I’ve learnt a lot about lung cancer during my time with the charity, but I wish that everyone knew all I’ve learned too. 

  • I wish they knew the devastating reality of lung cancer, how the signs and symptoms are often unknown or are mistaken for something far less sinister, such as a `smokers cough’ or a chest infection. 
  • I wish they knew that a lung cancer diagnosis is typically made too late for there to be any curative treatment.
  • I wish they knew that lung cancer isn’t only reserved for smokers.
  • I wish they knew that lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer of women and this figure continues to rise. (1)
  • I wish they knew that lung cancer deaths account for more than 1 in 5 cancer deaths in men and women – which is more than breast and bowel combined. (1)

I can’t do anything to change history and what happened to my mum, and indeed her parents who also died of the disease, but I have learned that with earlier diagnosis the outcome can be different – and survival rates are up! 

These days I’m in the privileged position of seeing first-hand the progress we are making in the fight to beat the disease through the research I manage. 

The charity has always funded research, historically the Liverpool Lung Project – a risk model, at the University of Liverpool - and we still continue to do so.  However, in 2012 we decided to open up our research to other organisations and since then we have funded 28 research projects across the UK.  The research we fund is into the all-important Early Detection of lung cancer but also Patient Experience, to help make the cancer journey better.

I truly believe that one day one of the projects we fund will identify a gene, or a blood test, or a breath test, or indeed a risk model, that will see lung cancer diagnosed at an early stage when it can be as treated successfully as breast cancer is today. The research we are funding is exciting and innovative, and we are beginning to see small signs of progress. We WILL get there. 

Until then we will continue to raise awareness of lung cancer, its signs and symptoms. We will continue to educate people about the dangers of smoking, encourage children not to start through our schools and Cut Films programmes, and influence the government in best practice for lung cancer patients through our work with the Lung Cancer Clinical Reference Group.

But you too can play your part, by sharing this blog and by making a donation towards our research at www.roycastle.org.

And why not take part in one of our fundraising events - like I am here (above), running the Spring 10k in memory of my mum.

If I could have one wish, it would be to live in a world where no-one dies of lung cancer.

By Jackie Tebbs
Research Grants Executive

(1) http://www.uklcc.org.uk/files/Ten%20years%20on%20in%20lung%20cancer.%20The%20changing%20landscape%20of%20the%20UK's%20biggest%20killer.%20FINAL.pdf


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