Mandee is the fourth generation in her family to get lung cancer - her mother, grandmother and great grandmother all died of the disease. Yet even despite this staggering family history, her doctors didn't believe the nodule on her lung - picked up on a scan for something else - could be lung cancer.
“I was diagnosed by accident. I had a scan on my pancreas because I’d previously had pancreatitis the year before. My pancreas was fine, but the scan just happened to catch the bottom of my lung and that’s where the nodule was.
They thought it might be scar tissue; I’d always suffered from bronchitis. So, for 18 months we were watching and waiting but after 18 months, I had had enough. My mother, grandmother and great grandmother had all died of lung cancer. I didn’t want to be the fourth generation to die of this awful disease. I wanted it out.
"If I hadn’t stamped my feet and said I want this out now, who knows where I’d be now?"
Mandee was diagnosed with lung cancer aged 47
I had to really beg for that surgery. They simply didn’t believe my life was in danger. They didn’t believe it could be lung cancer.
I remember explaining how scared I was because of my family history. Please take it out, I begged.
Even after surgery, they didn’t think it was lung cancer. It wasn’t until the histology came back that it confirmed what I’d always believed. It was lung cancer and it had spread. I had to have chemo and another operation.
That was two years ago and I’m currently no evidence of disease.
Life after treatment
I still have bad days even though I'm no evidence of disease. I think about it a lot. I expect it to come back at every scan. I expect bad news.
I went through a period of depression, almost a PDST because I was so traumatised by what had happened and hadn't really dealt with it.
I didn't know I was depressed. I had been back at work for almost a year and was really struggling. I have quite a high-pressured account manager role, and I was really, really struggling with the figures and the targets.
Fortunately, I had an occupational health appointment through work and they said you are depressed. I haven't dealt with my mum's death because I went straight into my own diagnosis. I haven't dealt with how you're feeling. I was very down. I was very negative. I'm usually pretty happy - hate the word but - bubbly person and I was not at all like that. I was buying things and thinking who I was going to leave it to in my will.
I had cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for 4 months. It didn't start working until the 8th session when something just clicked and I just feel great now. I've got some coping mechanisms and it's really helped with everyday like. I feel like I'm myself again now for the first time in about 18 months.
Mandee on the set of the LikeMe photoshoot
I still have those really really bad days and I still struggle, on occasion especially around scan time.
My biggest fear is it will come back, that i won't be around to enjoy my life. I'm happy. I'm happily married. I love my life now. My biggest fear is I will get that diagnosis again.
If it does come back, and it probably will, I’m going to have to put those big girl pants on and get on with it.
The advice I’d give to anybody experiencing symptoms is just be persistent. Shout as loud as you canto get the treatment and the diagnosis you deserve to be able to live.
If I hadn’t stamped my feet and said I want this out now, who knows where I’d be now?