If You are Worried in Any Way, Go and Get Checked Out | Real People, Real Cancer Stories: #22
Gaynor’s mother had developed an unproductive cough – a dry hacking. A month later, she complained of weakness in her right arm, and was afraid she’d had a stroke. Four months after that, she entered the hospital because her arthritic hip had turned septic – infected.
By the time Gaynor’s mother entered the hospital, her arm was very weak. The doctors had x-rays done, afraid that the sepsis in her hip had spread. Instead, they discovered Stage 4 small cell lung cancer. It had already spread to her brain.
Just six months before her diagnosis, Gaynor’s mother had quit smoking – the number-one risk factor for lung cancer. She had been a smoker for more than 40 years. According to our Lung Cancer Risk Assessment, which is based upon a published risk model by M.D. Anderson researchers and clinicians, Gaynor’s mom was approximately 11 times more likely to develop lung cancer in the next five years than someone her age who never smoked.
Gaynor remembers when she learned of her mother’s diagnosis:
“On the day we found out, I went to visit her in the hospital,” she says. “I could hear her sobbing and ran in to find the lady visiting the patient in the next bed sitting with my mum. The doctor had told my mum she had cancer when she was alone. The lady heard her cry and (had) gone to be with her. I just stood there with my mouth open like a goldfish. It was such a shock. I couldn’t take it in.”
The next three months, until Gaynor’s mother died, were terribly hard. She was too ill for chemotherapy, so she just seemed to give up. It was hard for her to eat. She couldn’t walk because of her hip, and she would get angry and then apologize for upsetting her family.
“I knew she had been given three to six months, but she had not wanted to know any times,” Gaynor says. “This meant I was trying to be positive for her when I just wanted to cry. We had been told nothing about the problems she would face, such as having trouble eating, and felt helpless because we were so ill-informed.”
The mother she wanted to cry for had been “an amazing person,” Gaynor says. “She was a very caring and friendly person and had a large circle of friends. Only a few months before she was diagnosed, I had my baby girl, and she was looking forward to spending time with her granddaughter.”
Her experience has given Gaynor insights that she wants to share with anyone who faces the challenges of lung cancer, or any cancer.
“Find out everything you can, and ask lots of questions, and don’t apologize for doing so,” she says. “Make sure you find out about the support you can get, from charities to benefits you are entitled to. Don’t assume the worst. Stay positive and arm yourself with information.”
For anyone with risk factors for lung cancer, such as smoking, exposure to secondhand smoke, exposure to carcinogenic chemicals, a family history of cancer, etc., Gaynor recommends immediate action.
“Find out about the symptoms and, if you are worried in any way, go and get checked out,” she says. “My mum’s doctor missed her first symptom, which is the unproductive cough. So bug that doctor if you have to. If you were wrong, who does it hurt?”
If you would like to share the story of a loved one who fought lung cancer, or if you are a lung cancer survivor and would like to share your story, please send an email to Kelley.firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit our Lung Cancer Awareness Wall, an interactive memorial for those who have battled lung cancer, and submit their story there.
To see if you or a loved one are at risk for lung cancer, try out Free Lung Cancer Risk Assessment or see a complete list of lung cancer risk factors and lung cancer symptoms.
According to the American Cancer Society, early detection is the best chance to increase the lung cancer survival rate. To learn more about early detection, click here.
Gaynor’s story is just one of many. To read more real lung cancer stories from lung cancer survivors, people who have fought cancer and people who have lost loved ones to the disease, click here.