Know Your Normal

November is Lung Cancer awareness month. During this period, Spike wants to share his personal story with others in the community, in the hope that it will help people in a similar situation to get the medical advice they need, as early as possible.

As a 49-year-old with a healthy lifestyle, Spike put his constant tiredness down to being a busy husband and father, his long working hours, and daily physical activity. However, when he started to feel some unusual pain and decided it was important to see his GP. Spike was later diagnosed with lung cancer.

Following a routine daily gym and swim session, Spike felt what he describes as a ‘sensitive ache’ in the back of his shoulder blade and down his arm. As it grew worse, Spike visited his GP and was referred to hospital for scans. Eight weeks after his initial symptoms started, Spike was diagnosed with lung cancer as well as a brain tumour.

There was just something that didn’t feel right but it never crossed my mind that it could be lung cancer – I thought that just affected older, white people and smokers as featured in the campaigns about cancer. That’s why it’s so important for me to tell others that they need to look out for anything that isn’t normal for them.

Through genetic testing, Spike found out that he had a rare form of lung cancer which, despite common perceptions that this type of cancer affects smokers, often it affects people who are non-smokers. Half of those diagnosed with this form of lung cancer are under 50 years of age (some are much younger), and the majority are female. Most are diagnosed at Stage 4.

Coming from the Black community, I want to make sure that we’re better represented in information, statistics and campaigns about cancer – that’s why I’m sharing my story. A cancer diagnosis can be a very isolating experience. I think that seeing other people that look like you and how they’re living well with cancer can really help.

Spike is also mindful of the stigma that still exists in the Black community, around talking about cancer. He believes that we all have an important role to play in others’ health too.

We’ve got to be more open about cancer and start those conversations in our families, with our friends. That’s the only way we’re going to get people to seek medical help, rather than brush their symptoms under the carpet like we so often do. Talk about it, make sure that the people you love and care for are getting the medical advice they need.

Due to the type of cancer diagnosed, Spike was able to have a tablet-based treatment called Alectinib, rather than radiotherapy or chemotherapy. However, it’s been a hard transition for him and his family. Spike stopped working immediately following his diagnosis and his wife started to work additional days and hours to maintain the family’s income. Aside from the financial difficulties, Spike also saw a marked effect on how he felt about himself and his body. He gained a lot of weight due to the medication and developed other underlying health problems that stopped him being able to walk more than a few steps.

I had gone from enjoying 5k runs to being out of breath and clenching my chest after climbing up a flight of stairs. We moved our master bedroom into our front lounge on the ground floor to reduce the frequency of me having to go upstairs. I was also unrecognisable to myself in the mirror.’

Spike and his family have had to adapt their lives in various ways to prioritise his health and the children’s wellbeing – they were aged five and seven at the time. Despite everything that Spike has been through, he has retained a positive outlook on life.

Cancer can have a catastrophic impact on your life in so many ways, but you must keep looking forward. Stay positive, be active, engage more with nature. Learning to accept and embrace yourself after the trauma of a cancer diagnosis is one of the first steps in reconnecting with yourself and others around you.

Spike is only too aware that cancer affects everyone, but he also knows that early detection and diagnosis gives people the best chance of effective treatment, survival, and quality of life.

I know it can be scary to think about cancer, but it’s more frightening to leave it longer than you need to and miss out on vital treatment that could save your life. Look after yourself, know what’s normal for you and see your GP if something seems unusual. We’ve got to put ourselves in the best position to support our own health and that of our loved ones.

Please also include a Box out with the following

Lung Cancer Symptoms

  • Coughing for 3 weeks or more
  • Chest infection that keeps coming back
  • Aches or pains when breathing and coughing
  • Unexpected weight loss or tiredness

If there’s anything in your body doesn’t feel right, you should make an appointment to see your GP’

For more info visit www.nhs.uk/cancersymptoms

One thought on “Know Your Normal

  • 28th November 2023 at 6:53 am
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    How has Spike’s life changed following his cancer diagnosis, considering the type of treatment he received, the impact on his work, family income, and his physical and emotional well-being?

    Reply

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