Graham and Leigh Thomas have been married for 53 years. On the day they retired, they have collectively worked 100 years; Graham worked 51 years full time and Leigh 49.
During that time, they had planned their retirement. However, Graham’s diagnosis has changed all that. It changed their lives completely. Until then, they were both healthy and they thought they had a future. They believed they had a long retirement ahead of them, time together, time with their children and time with their grandchildren. But, as Leigh explains, the cancer has robbed us of that…
“Not quite,” remarks Graham. “Not yet.”
“People look at me and they say ‘You’re looking well’ and I feel well but at the back of my mind I’ve still got that Sword of Damocles basically hanging over my head.
“I was diagnosed with stage 4 small cell lung cancer in 2014. I also have a tumour on my spine. I had been taken ill with pneumonia and was back and forth to the hospital. On what I thought was the last visit, when I expected to get the all clear, I was told I had lung cancer. The pneumonia was gone but there was the cancer, hiding behind it.
“I was a smoker. I smoked since I was 14. I used to say that it only took me 50 years to give it up. I guess that’s why people think I brought it on myself and why lung cancer is the least deserving cancer. But it shouldn’t be the last cancer to be considered. It should be the first, or at least one of the first. It kills the most people after all.
“People don’t really appreciate or consider how people with lung cancer feel or the trauma that they actually go through. That’s why I’ve joined Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation’s #HeadHigh campaign, to help raise the profile of lung cancer.
“MPs will have me staring at them and they’ll be staring at me. Hopefully that will make a difference because they are the people with the means to nudge things along a bit. It might spur them on to do a little bit more than they’re doing at the minute.”
“People look at me and they say ‘You’re looking well’ and I feel well but at the back of my mind I’ve still got that Sword of Damocles basically hanging over my head.”
Graham is living with terminal small cell lung cancer
Despite Graham’s diagnosis, he is an incredibly positive person. His dry sense of humour about lung cancer may not be to everyone’s taste but his attitude to living with lung cancer certainly is.
“When I was first diagnosed we were obviously shocked and, to be honest, we spent the first year just waiting for the inevitable. Then, after that first year, we realised that wasn’t the way to do things so I decided to just get on with it, to get on with living, to Keep On Keeping On.
“I didn’t realise I had so many friends! It was in the summer and I was holding court in the garden everyday with visitors turning up. My poor wife was making cupful after cupful of tea.
“Having lung cancer has also enabled us to meet some wonderful people who do such a lot of good in so many ways. We would never have come across these people if this hadn’t happened so, even though it is quite bleak, you can always find something good.”
What an incredible outlook on life.