I always thought if I was ever diagnosed with cancer and it wasn’t curable, I would probably find a way to commit suicide. I didn’t want to be one of those people who went through years of treatment and I wasn’t a fan of chemotherapy – I thought it was chemicals which would do your body more harm than good.
And then, in February 2015, I became one of those people; they found a 5cm tumour and I was diagnosed with stage 3b lung cancer. I did have curative radiotherapy but the doctors then found a tumour in my left lung and metastasis in my brain.
I had had a cough but, being a never smoker, the prospect of lung cancer wasn’t considered. As a result, it took three visits to the doctor before I was sent for a chest x ray. That’s when we were told the devastating news. The doctors thought the cancer had been there was about 5 years before it was discovered.
So there I was, 37 years old with two young children and incurable lung cancer.
“I’m a big supporter of social justice so I think it is wrong that the cancer that kills the most people gets less funding than other cancers. I want to change that. I don’t want my children to be motherless because lung cancer doesn’t get enough money for research.”
Joanna has two young children
I am one of the growing cohort of younger women with lung cancer who have never smoked. I am a never smoker and I often feel when I’m talking about lung cancer that I have to say that in the first sentence to ensure that I have the right amount of sympathy that I think the disease warrants.
But it’s unfair that I should even feel that way because people who have smoked don’t deserve to die. Nobody really deserves to die of lung cancer but, as a result of this stigma, lung cancer attracts a lot less funding than other cancers even though it kills more people and it is the UK’s biggest cancer killer.
You just need to look at the numbers and it will add up. If you want to reduce the amount of deaths from lung cancer, you need to invest in research, you need to invest in support campaigns that improves the quality of life for survivors.
I’m a big supporter of social justice so I think it is wrong that the cancer that kills the most people gets less funding than other cancers from the health budget. I want to change that. I want to help make it more equal. It should at least be the same! I don’t want my children to be motherless because lung cancer doesn’t get enough money for research.
And yet I still have hope, something which before my diagnosis didn’t seem possible.
There has been research in the field and treatments have advanced to the extent that its not a death sentence. There is a chance, it’s a small chance but its still a chance that you could survive and having that hope means you stay alive for longer and that you have quality of life that makes life worth living for longer.
So that’s why I’m still here three years after diagnosis. I work full time. I parent my children. I have fun. I do something I enjoy every day. I think I have made the right choice as regards to my treatment and I hope I still have a future. I just hope, as each month turns into a longer survival period, that new treatments will be found and I never have to think about ending my life.