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George's wife noticed his weight loss which led to a lung cancer diagnosis

George is 76 and lives in Southgate. He’s been a smoker since he was 18 but never had any noticeable health problems.  It was only towards the end of 2019 that his wife noticed that he was losing weight and had a slight ongoing cough. “I put the weight loss down to all the work I was doing on my allotment.” says George.

Diagnosis

His wife persuaded him to go with her to  see their GP. Following a chat and examination the doctor referred George to have an X-ray straight away. The X-ray showed that there was a shadow on his right lung and half an hour later on the same day he had a CT scan.

The CT scan confirmed a cancerous tumour. A PET scan followed to check whether there were tumours in other parts of George’s body. Fortunately, this was not the case but surgery on his lung was booked for the beginning of 2020. This was arranged by his hospital team at North Middlesex Hospital under respiratory consultant, Zaheer Mangera. The surgery for stage 2 lung cancer would take place at University College Hospital at Westmoreland Street.

Cross section of a lung scan shown on a computer screen

Surgery

Early in 2020 the tumour, the upper part of the right lung and surrounding lymph nodes were removed. George spent a short time in intensive care and was then moved to a recovery ward for a week before returning home. George’s follow up care took place back at North Middlesex Hospital. The surgery had been successful and a scan showed his lungs were clear of cancer.

Difficulties after chemotherapy

However, despite this good news, George had very poor health during 2020 which he and his family had to cope with through the COVID-19 pandemic.  After some careful thought, weighing up the risks and benefits, George decided to go ahead with chemotherapy which was recommended as a preventative measure to deal with any possible unseen cancer cells. But after the first two cycles of treatment, he developed sepsis (blood poisoning) and then after returning home from treatment in hospital he had a heart attack.

"I’m determined to get my quality of life back"

“It was a very stressful time. Due to the pandemic I had to go for the follow up appointments and the chemotherapy on my own. Then, when I was seriously ill my family couldn’t visit me while I was in hospital.  There was a lot of strain on my family, but everyone helped me including relatives who came over to London from abroad. They all gave me the confidence and the support to get better.”

“I’ve been through a lot but I’m determined to get my quality of life back. I enjoy living and it’s a miracle I’m still around. I don’t expect to be as healthy as I was before my cancer diagnosis but I’m happy, given what I’ve been through. The doctor said ‘it’s over to you’ to get better and gradually I’ve been able to walk around the house and garden more, and I’ve gone back to the allotment.  I rest when I need to, but it’s good to be back outside and spend time with friends.

George remains clear of cancer. He will continue to have check-ups, alongside care for his heart problem.

“I can’t thank the nurses and doctors enough for all they did for me,” says George.

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