Being diagnosed with lung cancer can be both emotionally and practically challenging. Listening to others who have experienced similar situations is often re-assuring and can be helpful for you, your loved ones or when preparing questions for your doctor or a specialist.
The patient, a 45-year-old housewife, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2002. She was treated with chemotherapy and is about to start radiotherapy.
This interview has been sourced from healthtalkonline.org, award-winning research into patient experiences in conjunction with the Health Experience Research Group at Oxford University, UK.
healthdirect doesn't endorse any personal opinions expressed in the video, and we recommend you discuss any questions you have regarding unfamiliar terms or descriptions, as well as how this experience compares to the Australian health care system, with a health professional.
She first consulted her doctor because of a painful arm and numb fingers.
Well cancer, when I first thought there was a problem it wasn't cancer, cancer hadn't entered my mind at all. I went to my local GP with a sore arm, I had a very sore arm from here right down to my fingers. But I thought I'd been playing on the computer too much, I thought I'd perhaps trapped a nerve in my neck because my fingers were going numb and then they were getting, all my arm was getting really, really painful and so much so when I went to see the GP the next time he sent me for urgent physio. And the physio lady, she was very nice, and she gave me exercises to do and I did the exercises and it made it worse. So I went back again, she gave me different exercises again they made it worse.
Describes her bronchoscopy via the nose and stresses that it did not hurt.
The bronchoscopy goes up either nostril, they put a tube with a camera up one nostril but they're putting oxygen up the other nostril so it's, you don't panic you can breathe (laughs). Everybody's panic is they can't breathe, which was mine obviously, asking questions beforehand you know, 'How am I going to breathe while you're doing all this?'. But it was all explained quite detailed. They give you, they put a cannula in your hand, like an injection where they can just, they give you like valium¹.
A sedative is that?
Sedative yes to, they don't actually knock you out but you're not with it, you know what's going on but not really. It's a very, very strange sensation but not unpleasant. It doesn't hurt, you're told, you're given instructions what to do and as long as you follow those instructions to the letter it will not hurt. When they get to your vocal cords they stop and they'll ask you to swallow and then they go past your vocal chords so they don't do any damage and then they just keep asking you to swallow. They push the camera down and they can see, and me being a nosy person I was very annoyed that I couldn't see either (laughs). But no it was, it was not an unpleasant experience at all. It doesn't last very long, about 15 minutes you're in and out, you're, oh before they put the camera down which I forgot to say, before they put the camera down they do spray the back of your throat so that you have no feeling there, you can't feel the camera, you can't feel anything. So it doesn't hurt at all.
Describes aromatherapy - the smell itself made her feel better.
Aromatherapy is, well it's different essential oils, that they mix together and then they massage into your skin and you obviously, you get the choice of which ones you would like, and I had rose, and it's called ylang ylang, and sandalwood, and this is mixed with just normal baby oil, and the smell is absolutely gorgeous, absolutely beautiful, and the smell itself makes you feel better. But the actual touching and massaging of the particular spot on me, the first lady actually made the pain go way but the second lady, because she was so nervous it didn't really do anything. But I think that was just because she was nervous.
Prayer together with a healer and other therapies have been very comforting.
But I'm not going to die, I refuse, I refuse to die. I have [faith], I'm a Roman Catholic, I'm a lapsed Roman Catholic but I have never ever stopped praying, I've always said my prayers of a night time from when I was a child until now. I've always said them at bed time, never stopped. And even more so I think I say them all day long now and don't realise that I'm doing it, subconsciously I pray all day long. But I refuse to die, I refuse to give in, I will not let this thing beat me.
My friend is a healer, we are both Roman Catholic and our form of healing I suppose would be different because we sit and we pray together. And I find it very, very comforting, very, very relaxing and we've both seen, we hold hands and we pray with our eyes shut but we've both seen the same images and we've both felt the same things. We've both felt our hands lift or felt energy. I've felt energy, draining energy from her into me. But I've had reflexology, which is absolutely wonderful, aromatherapy again absolutely wonderful. Dismiss nothing because everything helps, everything helps.
She has been treated quickly and kindly and found her oncologist marvellous.
And what's your general view of the National Health Service after all this?
After all this, I wouldn't have a bad word to say about them. I've been treated so quickly, so kindly, I would not have them criticised at all in front of me. They've been absolutely marvellous, absolutely marvellous. With the resources that they've got they're wonderful, absolutely wonderful.
And communication between doctors and patients; has that been good?
It has been so far, so far yes it has, yeah. Dr, my oncologist he is, he's absolutely fantastic, I've never known a doctor like him. He, he does have a clinic but he would rather come and see you whilst you're having your treatment than to drag you back to the hospital, for an appointment. He is, he's marvellous, he is absolutely marvellous.
Describes the support she receives when she visits the day hospice.
The day hospice for my age group was, is always a Friday but my chemotherapy was always a Friday, so I was supposed to go last Friday but I'd had the bronchoscopy on the Thursday and was just feeling awful and couldn't go. But this Friday I'm going to go and I'm really looking forward to it because they do all the complementary therapies there, and I can get my hair done there, and I am really looking forward to it. And they do art as a therapy and I've got all my art things that I will take with me and have a play with my paint and brushes there.
(1) Diazepam is the active ingredient in Valium
Source: healthtalkonline.org (Lung cancer, aged 40-50, interview LC06)
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Last reviewed: February 2013