2018 marks 15 years since I was diagnosed with lung cancer, but who’s counting!
Back in August 2002, I was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer. I had been treated for asthma by my local doctor who then suggested I go for acupuncture to another doctor. Whilst I was having the acupuncture, I was coughing up blood and was sent for a CT scan. The CT scan revealed that I had a 3 centimetre tumour in my right lung. I was sent to a Thoracic Specialist who did an endoscopy and said my tumour was inoperable.
Fortunately, I got a second opinion from a surgeon who said that he would give me chemotherapy and if the tumour shrunk, and then he may be able to operate and take my right lung away. I had three sessions of seven hours chemotherapy. A PET scan showed that the tumour had shrunk out of the lymph nodes and was 60 per cent smaller, meaning it was then operable. On 12th December 2002, I had a pneumonectomy and they took my right lung away.
Prior to my diagnosis of lung cancer, I experienced lethargy and breathlessness. I gained 20kgs in weight and finally started coughing up blood.
These symptoms affected my lifestyle quite considerably. I still managed to work but I had little energy left for anything else. Every week, I got progressively worse. I couldn’t garden without resting every 10 minutes and if it hadn’t been for my wife telling me we had to go and get a second opinion, I probably would not have got the treatment in time.
15 years on, I continue to manage my lung health with regular exercise and a good diet. Regular, gentle walks on level ground are fabulous, slopes are great as long as they are downwards. I have a diabetic diet because I am type 2 diabetes. I eat minimal fats and no sugar and maintain my weight at my normal 84 kilos. I have annual flu vaccination and a pneumonia vaccination every five years.
Life for me post treatment is back to normal. It took several weeks for me to regain the strength. I am much better than I was before the treatment even though now I only have one lung. My diagnosis of lung cancer and treatment has changed my life as it would change anybody’s. I now have a sense of my mortality and I certainly do look around and appreciate things that I took for granted in the past. 15 years afterwards I am still conscious of the fact I am very lucky to be alive.
My advice for people who suspect they have lung cancer is to go to their doctor immediately. If they’re not happy with their doctor’s answers and the symptoms are still there they should try another doctor or question their doctor about being referred for a CT scan.
Cancer is not a death sentence, it is just a word and you can survive. Look at me! I continue to maintain a positive “can do” attitude and life is still great. Always maintain a positive attitude that you will beat this, no matter what.
My wife, Chris and I have now retired and made a sea change from Sydney to the coastal town of Hervey Bay in Queensland. Hervey Bay ticks most of the boxes for us as well as having the facilities for all our medical check-ups (Chris has had breast cancer twice).
I have been lucky enough to go on many overseas trips in the recent years. Five years ago, we cruised from Anchorage to Vancouver through the inside passage, in March 2014, to celebrate my 70th birthday we took a cruise from Singapore to Dubai which was interesting going through the countries in between. Then in November 2014, we went on my bucket list trip cruising through the Panama Canal which was fabulous and a must see. I find the 14 hour flights are easily coped with and I can handle them as well as anybody with two lungs of my age.
The Lung Foundation helped me by providing opportunities to teleconference with other sufferers and survivors and hear their stories about how they have dealt with their lung condition.
Life is perfect, we are enjoying our retirement with lots of travel and a sea change to sunny Queensland. Life is great!
Find out more about Lung Foundation Australia’s Telephone Support Groups, here.