A LUNG cancer patient from Hull has shared his story in a bid to raise awareness of the disease and the dangers of smoking.
Barry Garton, a former private hire driver, is currently recovering from a course of radiotherapy after a tumour was found in one of his bronchial tubes, the two airways that carry air in and out of the lungs.
He is now urging young people to think twice about smoking as part of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, which runs throughout November.
27% of people living in the Hull area are smokers – significantly more than the England average of 17% 1. Nearly nine in 10 cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking 2. People in Hull are almost twice as likely to die from lung cancer than people in England as a whole 3.
Barry, 72, said: “I started smoking when I was about 12. Everybody smoked then, it was the norm. I was smoking about 20 a day at one point, then I was diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and I cut down to three or four a day. Since being diagnosed with lung cancer, I’ve stopped smoking completely.
“I feel like saying to young kids, ‘If you want to finish up like I am carry on, but my recommendation is stop smoking’.”
Barry was diagnosed with COPD two years ago after experiencing difficulties breathing. During a check-up in May, he was told his illness had worsened.
He was advised to go to the hospital for a chest x-ray, but he put it off. The nurse advised him to stop smoking altogether, so he began using e-cigarettes.
In July Barry suffered a mini stroke, which is also called a Transient Ischaemic Attack or TIA. His doctor managed to persuade him to have the x-ray and it was then that his lung cancer was detected. The images showed that one of his lungs had completely collapsed.
Barry said: “I suspected it. I wasn’t really surprised. I’d lost two stone in weight and my breathing had got worse. My family felt guilty because they had pushed me into having the x-ray, but I know I should have done what I was told and gone sooner.
“I was worried I wouldn’t be able to walk from my car to the clinic as my breathing was so bad. But maybe I also put it off because I was in denial. People are still frightened of the word cancer. It’s not something you want to be told you have.”
Barry began a course of chemotherapy at Castle Hill Hospital, but it was cut short when he had a bad reaction to the treatment. The platelet count in his bone marrow dropped dangerously low and he was given two platelet transfusions.
Platelets are cells in blood which form clots to help stop bleeding, and doctors believe Barry’s bad reaction was due to taking blood thinners following his TIA.
With chemotherapy no longer an option, Barry underwent five consecutive days of radiotherapy, and had 2.8 litres of fluid drained from his lung.
He said: “Before they drained my lung I couldn’t do a lot. I couldn’t get up the stairs without taking a break because I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t feel like driving and if I did I would just take my wife to the shops and sit in the car.
“Now I can drive my car and walk around the shops. There’s been a massive improvement and I’ve got my life back a little bit. The care I’ve had has been absolutely brilliant.”
Barry is now looking forward to enjoying Christmas with his family before he returns to hospital in January for an update on his future treatment options.
His experience of living with cancer is currently being tracked through questionnaires and in-depth interviews as part of a Yorkshire Cancer Research investigation into cancer inequalities in Hull and East Yorkshire, led by Professor Una Macleod at the Hull York Medical School.
The five year project, funded by a £750,000 award from the charity, aims to improve the early recognition of people with cancer, reduce the number of people diagnosed as an emergency and determine the needs of all advanced cancer patients so that they receive appropriate care in the most appropriate place.
Barry added: “If I can help other people with my experience that would be a good thing. I’m glad I had an x-ray when I did but I should have gone sooner. If anyone else is experiencing symptoms of lung cancer then I would recommend they go to the doctor, the earlier the better.”
Lung cancer symptoms include:
• A cough that does not go away after two or three weeks, or a cough that gets worse.
• Frequent chest infections
• Coughing up blood
• An ache or pain when breathing or coughing
• Feeling short of breath
• Feeling tired or weak
• Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
If you are worried, please go and see your GP. If cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, it can often be treated more successfully.
1. Public Health England, Public Health Profiles, Health Profiles, Adults’ health and lifestyle – “Smoking prevalence”, http://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/health-profiles, Accessed [September 2016].
2. Parkin, Boyd and Walker, The fraction of cancer attributable to lifestyle and environmental factors in the UK in 2010, British Journal of Cancer 2011, 105: S1-S81.
3. The lung cancer mortality rate in NHS Hull CCG is 109 deaths per 100,000 people compared to the England average of 61 deaths per 100,000 people. CancerData, Mortality, http://cancerdata.nhs.uk/mortality, Accessed [September 2016].
Nikki Brady, Senior PR Officer, Yorkshire Cancer Research. Tel: 01423 877228. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
- Harrogate-based Yorkshire Cancer Research was founded in 1925 and is the largest independent regional cancer charity in England (Registered Charity 516898). We are not part of a national charity.
- We are committed to reducing the devastating impact of cancer on the lives of people living in Yorkshire.
- Our mission is to work in partnership, fund research and support initiatives that will help people in Yorkshire avoid, survive and cope with cancer.
- Current statistics show that 575 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire every week. Incidence and mortality rates are higher than the England average due to social deprivation, post-industrialisation and lifestyle choices but also availability of healthcare services and difficulties accessing early diagnostics, clinical trials and the latest treatments.
- We aim to:
- Be the leading authority on cancer in Yorkshire, understanding the problems and priorities in the region and sharing knowledge with partners.
- Raise awareness of cancer and how to prevent it by working in local communities, schools and colleges, sports clubs and with other health-related organisations.
- Promote screening programmes and fund research that can improve the diagnosis of cancer so we can detect and treat it at the earliest opportunity.
- Invest in innovative research projects at every stage of a cancer patient's journey.
- Campaign for fair and equal access to the very best healthcare services and a greater share of the money spent nationally on research.
- For further information, please visit www.yorkshirecancerresearch.org.uk or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.