Some people carry about them an air of calm, even if they don’t always feel it. Carol Belding, who’s 62, and lives in the Hampshire town of Basingstoke, is just such a person. As she peers through her glasses, she seems completely at ease with herself, despite the demanding circumstances.
We meet Carol at the photo-shoot for our Lung Cancer Awareness Month (LCAM) calendar – and, just to add another layer of chaos to the occasion, she, like the others who volunteered to take part, is being interviewed by a film crew. Enough, surely, to put anyone at least a little on edge? Well, not Carol; but then she’s becoming used to taking life’s twists and turns in her stride. She has non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Carol on the set of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation's #HeadHigh photo shoot, and with husband, Albert
She has received chemotherapy and radiotherapy and has been on a two-year trial with the immunotherapy drug nivolumab (trade name Opdivo) since last year. Her route to diagnosis was via her GP.
“I had been coughing for three or four weeks and it just wouldn’t go away. I saw my doctor and was then referred to hospital. I had tests, and it was diagnosed as lung cancer.
“My friends were shocked and saddened. With this stigma around lung cancer and smoking, they couldn’t understand why I had it”.
Carol has never smoked. Yet, of course, she was asked THAT question. You know the one.
“Yes, I was asked if I smoked. I felt that bit of the stigma, that this disease is just associated with people who smoke, and at first I admit I was a little bit annoyed, because I didn’t smoke.
“You get that impression that lung cancer is something that’s self-inflicted through smoking, and, being a non-smoker, I didn’t want to be in that category.
“I have learnt a lot in the years since I was diagnosed and treated. It’s not just a disease that affects smokers – it can affect anyone. Young, old, non-smokers – it’s sad.
“My friends been very supportive with me. We’ve gone through the journey together. And here we are now, telling people how to be positive about it, and how to work through it.
“It’s a case of ‘don’t panic’. I have a positive attitude and was very determined to beat it. The more awareness we can make and the more awareness we can create, I think, can help. In the five years since I’ve been diagnosed I’ve seen a vast improvement and the research that’s done is most vital. But it needs to continue.”
"I have learnt a lot in the years since I was diagnosed and treated. It’s not just a disease that affects smokers – it can affect anyone. Young, old, non-smokers – it’s sad."
It wasn't until her diagnosis that Carol realised lung cancer can affect anyone
Carol goes to her local Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation support group, and finds that valuable. She is often accompanied by her husband, Albert:
“When she was diagnosed we knew we had to deal with it. She was very calm, very controlled and very brave.
“So this LCAM campaign is very exciting. We realise she’s not in this by herself, unfortunately there’s lots more people - and their partners - who are going through the same thing.
“I’d like to see more support for the carer – how we deal with the down times when they’re not feeling good, as well as the good times. Carol did find that a bit of a problem, and we had to deal with it. That was totally new territory for us both, but we got through it.”