Running Through Adversity!
Hello! By way of introduction, I am Jane Holmes. I moved to the beautiful hills of Wales in 2010 along with my husband and we have three lovely rescue dogs (along with a couple of outdoor cats). Both my husband and I are keen runners, running regularly with the dogs, and are members of the local Sarn Helen running club. Although I am not a speedy runner, I can plod along for a long time and have managed to complete six marathons since moving to Wales.
Jane Holmes running with her dog, Sam
My general lifestyle over the last twenty years has been one of healthy eating, exercise, not drinking or smoking (sounding very virtuous!). However, in 2014,aged 43, I was shocked to receive a diagnosis of advanced lung cancer. I was 43 at the time and still running regularly. I had none of the recognised symptoms of lung cancer (cough that lasts more than three weeks, coughing up blood, breathlessness, pain in shoulder) and had gone to the GP about something unrelated which had luckily led to a chest x-ray.
After the diagnosis my life became a whirlwind of tests, biopsies and scans. Originally it was thought that the cancer had been caught early and that I would be able to have surgery. However, unfortunately, it was then found to have spread to the nodes in my neck. I was advised that this meant the lung cancer was advanced, inoperable and incurable. The statistics around lung cancer make for grim reading and when questioning my prognosis I was told that from my position 'one in three people would be here in a year's time'. However, that said, I was younger and fitter than the average patient so that would stand me in good stead.
In the summer of 2014 I had four cycles of chemotherapy, which had limited effect. Instead of continuing to a potential six cycles, my treatment was changed to 30 sessions of radical radiotherapy to my chest and neck. During this time, I continued to try and keep as fit as possible and still maintain a healthy diet and a good dose of humour.
When radiotherapy treatment had finished, I decided I wanted to do something positive and so I focused on raising money for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. I had been shocked to discover that lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer in the UK, accounting for almost a quarter of all cancer deaths (more than prostate and breast cancer combined) and yet shockingly only receives 7% of cancer research funding in the UK. One in seven people diagnosed has never smoked and increasingly it seems that middle aged females are being diagnosed. Unfortunately there still seems to be a stigma around lung cancer whereas the fact remains - if you have lungs, you can get lung cancer.
With the help of my family and friends, who have all been so incredibly supportive, I have raised nearly £17,500 to date. Fundraising initiatives have included, amongst other things, a brilliant BBQ / Garden party, a coffee morning with raffle, a dog training fundraiser and a running club BBQ.
By March 2015, scans had revealed that the only active cancer remaining was in the main tumour in my right lung (I had affectionately named my tumour 'Bernard'). With this result, the clinical team were happy to review the surgery decision and in July 2015 I had the top right lobe of my lung removed, along with 'Bernard' and some of the associated lymph nodes.
Four months after surgery I ran Marathon Eryri / Snowdonia marathon (26.2 miles) with my husband. As you can imagine, Snowdonia at the end of October can be quite an unforgiving place in terms of weather - but we were lucky to have a clear day and the run went very well.
Since surgery in 2015, I am delighted to be able to update to say that all my scans have been clear. I will be monitored closely for ten years as I am aware that the recurrence rate for this particular disease is high - but I feel that by keeping my fitness levels high and by eating well, I will have given myself the best chance and will enable the clinical teams to do more radical treatment regimes should the disease recur. I continue to run and completed Marathon Eryri / Snowdonia marathon again in October 2016 and a half marathon in February 2017.
Jane and her husband, Steven, during the Eryri / Snowdonia marathon
I feel very fortunate to have had such good care from the NHS and to have a forward thinking clinical team who were prepared to push the boundaries on what the 'clinical pathway' could look like. Without their care and expertise I would not be living the life I currently am enjoying. I feel fit and maintain a positive outlook on life. My husband and I are planning a holiday to Thailand later this year and I am scheduling in lots of running along the way to help keep me fit.
There appears to be a lot of advances in relation to lung cancer, with the introduction of new drugs and immunotherapy. One concern I would have would be the accessibility to these new treatments for patients who donʼt have private health insurance. It is also important for patients to be able to find out what clinical trials may be open to them and hopefully new drugs may be accessed via this route.
Social media and the internet play an important role in keeping people up to date with advances in research. I also find lung cancer forums helpful, sharing concerns and information with others with lung cancer. Together I hope that the future looks brighter for those diagnosed with lung cancer and I will do all I can to help raise awareness to help with early diagnosis of this disease.
Jane is one of our patient advocates and helps us to raise awareness about lung cancer