Cancer is only a word but we are all afraid of it so let’s beat this together.
My name is Sandy, I am 63 years old living in Perth, married with two children, and four grandchildren.
I was diagnosed with lung cancer in July 2011, where I had carcinoid tumors in my chest and right lung. After having the annual flu jab at work, I had the flu and a cough that wouldn’t go away. I went to see my doctor and was sent off for a precautionary X-ray. The X-ray revealed a mass which turned out to be tumours in my chest and lungs.
When I first found out about my diagnosis I was numb, shocked, angry and sad all at the same time. Anyone who has been in a similar situation would know what the feelings are like. My family was also in shock. The hardest part was telling my children. Naturally as a mum you want to protect them from any bad news. My friends rallied around me and gave me lots of support. My biggest support came from my hubby Pete and my cousin Sue, who we stayed with for five months during this ordeal.
My treatment was surgery to remove the tumors as my surgeon told me it was my only option; this resulted in the loss of my right lung. Following the surgery, I had a persistent cough for about nine months and I have had to learn to breathe using one lung.
My daily life has changed. I can still do most things I used to enjoy doing but at a slower pace and I consciously have to remember to breathe. I have adjusted my lifestyle so that I am trying to walk every day and eat better.
What I have noticed about being a lung cancer patient, is the stigma you receive towards your disease.
People find out that I am a lung cancer patient and will immediately ask if I was a smoker.
My continued survival is mainly due to early detection, successful surgery and the follow up care I received from cancer nurses and my family.
My advice is to stay focused, listen to your medical team and remain positive throughout your treatment. Don’t sweat the small stuff, laugh every day, remember who you are and where you are going. Don’t look back we are not going that way!
What I would suggest to newly diagnosed patients is to make sure you take somebody with you to every appointment for extra support, always write down questions you want to ask and try not to stress.
Lung Foundation Australia was a huge help while I was dealing with my lung condition. They were always there to answers any questions and the resources and support options were all beneficial including social media posts, conferences and meeting other patients like me. Because of this, it is a privilege to be a patient advocate for such a cause, and I am definitely a better person for it.
Everybody goes on a journey of some kind, but to be told you have lung cancer is a journey you don’t want. It has been six years for me since I had my surgery. I have met many people along the way who I can say are friends, I still do fundraising and I also volunteer at my local hospital in the Cancer Centre. Who knows where the next six years will take me but my wonderful hubby and I are looking forward to the journey.