Understanding Lung Cancer: from a patient’s perspective

Beverley Bryant, creative lead, shares how our latest experience provides the real-world insights needed to deepen healthcare professionals’ understanding of lung cancer

How could I have known so little about the second most common cancer in the world?

As a healthy, non-smoking female in my forties, lung cancer was something I couldn’t possibly imagine impacting my life. Breast cancer maybe, but not lung.

Then I met the incredible people who would share their stories of living with the disease to help shape the A Life in a Day Lung Cancer experience.

The privilege of engaging with these patients gave me an understanding of lung cancer beyond its physical impacts. They each opened my eyes to the importance of understanding the whole experience of living with the world’s deadliest cancer, through their stories of frustration, repeated misdiagnosis, and endless waiting, waiting, waiting.

I think every oncology colleague should go through this to really understand how it may be for you as a person.”

So, what made me think lung cancer couldn’t possibly affect me? Stigma and naivety if I’m honest. I believed it was a cancer that only older people who smoke, or who have smoked, were at risk of. What I now know is: if you have lungs, you can get lung cancer.

For the younger, non-smokers who are diagnosed, stigma and lack of awareness is something they face on a regular basis. Some even feel they must pre-empt people’s comments – even from their health care team – by explaining they have never smoked and therefore do not ‘deserve’ to have lung cancer.

Their symptoms can often be a sign of other conditions, such as chest infections and even Covid. So for many, when they finally received their diagnosis of lung cancer, it was a huge shock. Maybe even greater than the immense shock of being diagnosed with other forms of cancer.

Before they have even had a chance to let that shock sink in, patients are immediately plunged into a world of treatments, trials, planning, lack of planning, sharing their news, managing others’ responses, dealing with unsolicited advice, and facing death.

The honest stories of the patients involved in the A Life in a Day Lung Cancer experience, make it as emotive as it is reflective. The challenges they helped create, bring-to-life the confronting realities of living with and dying from lung cancer and its ripple effect on loved ones. Offering a truly immersive learning experience that cannot fail to make participants reflect on their own lives.

“It was a really valuable experience I must say, it was different than I expected, and I really felt like a patient. It changed my life because it changed the way I think about a patient so thank you for having the opportunity to learn this.”

“I think every oncology colleague should go through this to really understand how it may be for you as a person.”

“It was quite deep, very realistic and very well thought through, which was quite surprising and being an Oncologist and up until a few years ago I was giving these diagnosis to patients.”

“I was calling patients and I thought I had all the empathy in the world right for patients because I just thought I interact with them all the time. But being on this side, it was quite a rollercoaster. I have to say it was quite surprising.”

This Lung Cancer Awareness Month, I ask you to make yourself and others aware of the signs and symptoms of lung cancer and break the stigma of it being an older, smokers’ cancer.

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If you are interested or have questions about A Life in A Day, please reach out and contact us.

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