Havering man’s lung cancer nightmare: ‘Doctors said I had 12 weeks’
09:00 06 July 2013
Havering Council has launched a campaign to encourage residents to become more aware of cancer. It is its first campaign since the authority became responsible for public health in April. The Recorder speaks to a Romford man about how he survived the illness.
‘‘Terminal’’, ‘‘three-months’’ was what Barry Lodge was told as he sat with his wife, Helen, at the former Oldchurch Hospital in Romford.
The seemingly fit and healthy 52-year-old electrician, who hadn’t smoked in more than 20 years and regularly played squash and took part in bike rides to Scotland, had been diagnosed with lung cancer.
And while he tried to take in the fact that what he thought was just a persistent cough, was a deadly disease, he then had to face the news that he had just 12 weeks left with his family.
Lung cancer - what to look out for
How to spot it:
You need to go to your doctor straight away if you have been coughing for three weeks or more.
Other symptoms include:
- A cough that has become worse or changes
- Repeated chest infections
- Coughing up blood
- Feeling more tired than usual for some time
- Losing weight for no obvious reason
- An ache or pain in your chest or shoulder that has lasted some time.
Luckily for Barry, while the cancer was horribly real, the prognosis turned out not to be quite right. He has survived for eight years and welcomed a third grandchild with another on the way.
He said: “The cough had gone on for too long and I knew something wasn’t right. At first the doctor thought it was a virus but antibiotics didn’t shift it and when I went back I was sent for an X-ray.
“The doctor called me in and said they had found a shadow on my lung and I was sent to the hospital for a biopsy. It was there that I was diagnosed. When they told me it was terminal it felt surreal, like it wasn’t happening. It didn’t sink in.” After the bleak prognosis, Barry, of Hayden Way, Collier Row, was told he had two options -– palliative care or he could trial a high-dosage of chemotherapy.
Unsurprisingly, the father- of-four went for the option that would give him the best chance of survival.
Barry’s cancer was difficult to treat as it was contained in tiny cells which spread quickly and were therefore hard to operate on. He began intensive chemotherapy at Barts Hospital, London, straight away.
The cancer-shrinking treatment was followed by radiotherapy. Now Barry never takes anything for granted.
He added: “I now go for an annual check-up. They have told me the chances of it coming back are the same as for anyone being diagnosed with it for the first time.
“Even though it’s been nearly eight years I still don’t take it for granted. I still feel the same when I am waiting for the results of the X-ray. I know I wasn’t easy to live with when I was having treatment but I would not have got through it without my family and friends. The treatment was horrendous, like any cancer treatment.”
He has welcomed Havering Council’s new campaign to raise awareness of the symptoms of lung cancer and the importance of early detection in saving lives. It is the first health-focussed campaign the council has supported since it became responsible for public health in April.
It is one of the country’s biggest killers, and has the lowest survival rates of any cancer, due to two-thirds of patients being diagnosed at a late stage.
As part of the campaign, health workers will be attending the Cottons Park fun day on Sunday, July 28, to give information and advice and they will also be bringing along a pair of giant inflatable lungs.
Cllr Steven Kelly, cabinet member for individuals, said: “This campaign is so important. If it helps get across the message to see your doctor if you have been coughing for more than three weeks, or have any of the other symptoms, lives could be saved.
“We have all brushed aside health concerns, putting off visiting the doctor to ‘see how it goes’.
“But our health is vitally important and taking a few moments out of your day to see your GP could be the difference between catching this cancer when it is treatable, or not.
“All of our lives are worth that and I hope our residents will take notice of this campaign, and it will help them to take better care of their health.”