Published on 2 February 2022
‘If you need an example of why early check-ups are vital, I’m it.’
So says Pat Penny, who is enjoying life nine years after being told she had lung cancer.
The 77 year old from Birchington has had two operations to remove part of her left lung, chemotherapy and two years of immunotherapy, and her latest scan showed no active cancer cells.
While doctors can’t guarantee this means she’s in remission, it’s a hugely positive step for someone who once believed her diagnosis was a death sentence.
Now, to mark World Cancer Day on Friday, 4 February, Pat is encouraging other people to speak to their doctors if they are concerned about their symptoms – particularly a cough that is not Covid.
She said: “My cancer came back three times, so to be told there is no activity in the area is just fantastic.
“It’s a very sneaky illness, and people do tend to have a perception of lung cancer patients; that we’re all very thin and have a hacking cough.
“But I never had a cough, and if it wasn’t for my sister-in-law Chris insisting I see my GP, it might never have been discovered.”
Pat, who lives in Birchington, is a former smoker and had developed a habit of continually clearing her throat. Her sister-in-law was concerned after seeing a TV advert about lung cancer.
Pat said: “My GP initially gave me antibiotics but when nothing changed I had a chest x-ray but I didn’t dream it would show anything.
“I was a very active person, I’d renovated houses and worked for social services looking after teenagers and I thought I was very fit and healthy.”
The x-ray showed seven small dots that concerned medical staff, so Pat was sent for more tests and investigations.
They showed that the specks had grown, and doctors decided to operate immediately. A further procedure was necessary when it came back, and then treatment with chemotherapy for a third tumour. Pat then had two years of immunotherapy treatment at the Viking Day Centre at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate.
She said: “Nine years ago I had my first cancer operation and I didn’t think I would see my next birthday.
“But I have seen many more – and lived through the coronavirus pandemic – and I am very grateful to all the medical staff for their care and support.
“Thanks to them, and because it was caught early, I am still here to tell the tale. So I would say to other people, especially if you have a cough and have tested negative for Covid, please speak to your GP, because early detection really does save lives.
“I’m living proof of that.”