(Picture: Sinéad Kay)

On the last day of the term at the college where I worked, I found myself missing out on a sunny day and a colleague’s barbecue due to a hospital appointment. A persistent cough had led to the visit, even though I didn’t feel particularly unwell. Little did I anticipate the life-changing news the appointment would bring.

A kind doctor at the hospital broke the news that I had lung cancer. Despite never having smoked and always advocating against smoking, I found myself facing a challenging reality. The initial shock led to tears, but I quickly focused on understanding the details of the treatment plan.

Back in June 2023, I was a busy mother of four, eagerly awaiting the summer holidays. A persistent cough, initially dismissed as a virus, prompted a colleague’s frank advice to get it checked. Recognizing the prolonged duration, I contacted my GP, leading to a chest X-ray revealing a shadow in my lung.

Further tests confirmed my worst fear – lung cancer. Researching the facts, I stuck to trusted sources like the NHS and cancer charities, avoiding online forums and social media due to their negative influence. Open communication with my family, including my husband and daughters, became crucial during this challenging time.

Thankfully, the cancer was caught early at stage 2, offering a high chance of successful treatment. The mid-right lobectomy via video-assisted thoracic surgery proved successful, and my recovery journey began. Initially breathless, I diligently performed breathing exercises, gradually regaining strength and stamina.

Four months post-surgery, I’ve regained my ability to engage in various activities. I’m back at work, walking up fells, training to climb mountains, and even embarking on a Couch to 5k running plan. Though my ongoing care plan involves regular monitoring, I’m grateful for the opportunity to embrace family life once again.

This life-changing diagnosis reinforces the importance of early detection. I encourage others to be aware that a persistent cough lasting three weeks or more could be a sign of cancer. Despite not fitting the typical profile, I hope my story underscores that lung cancer can affect anyone, even a non-smoking, active woman like me.

I support NHS England’s ‘Help Us, Help You’ lung cancer campaign and emphasize that early detection can make a significant difference in treatment outcomes. If you notice a lingering cough, please contact your GP – it might save your life.

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