“I feel like I’ve been given a second chance at life,” admits grandad Roy Smith, from Rothwell.
Roy, 74, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007. He’d coughed up blood one morning as he left the house to go to work, and immediately decided to make an appointment to see his GP.
“I didn’t think I had cancer,” Roy explains. “I just thought a small blood vessel in my throat had burst and I should get checked out to be on the safe side.”
After talking to a doctor about his symptoms, Roy was quickly referred to Leeds General Infirmary’s chest clinic for an x-ray.
Roy, with his partner Christine
A week later he was called back for further investigations, including an enhanced x-ray called a CT scan – the same test that will be used in the Leeds Lung Health Check.
Roy said: “When they told me I had lung cancer, I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was just a chest infection. But they said straight away that they could operate and they were optimistic they could get it all.”
Roy’s tumour was located near his windpipe, meaning he needed an operation as soon as possible. Within a month of being diagnosed he’d had his right lung removed.
Roy then underwent three sessions of chemotherapy and 18 sessions of radiotherapy at Cookridge Hospital.
“I felt like I flew through the operation, but I was tired for a long time afterwards,” Roy said. “Since having my lung removed, I’ve suffered with breathlessness. But I feel well and I try to stay active by going for walks.”
Tests showed Roy’s cancer was mainly caused by exposure to asbestos when he worked at power stations. However, he had also smoked throughout his life.
After starting to smoke at the age of 15 Roy switched to cigars in the early 1980s, believing that by smoking less often he would limit the damage caused to his health.
He explains: “I didn’t smoke as many cigars as I did cigarettes, but I realise now that it was just as bad. I gave up straight away as soon as I found out I had cancer. It shocked me.”
Roy took six months off work during his treatment. Afterwards he was no longer able to carry out manual labour so he decided to take voluntary redundancy.
Since then, Roy has been involved in campaigns to raise awareness of lung cancer symptoms through his local lung cancer support group.
He encouraged others to see their GP with any worries as part of the ‘Got a cough, get a check’ campaign run by NHS Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
Now he’s urging those invited to take part in the Leeds Lung Health Check not to miss out on the opportunity.
“Finding cancer early is crucial,” Roy says. “If I hadn’t decided to see my doctor, I might not be here today. I’ve had the opportunity to retire early and see the world with my wife, Christine, visiting places like Australia, China, Japan and Singapore.
“If you’re given the opportunity to have a check, you should take it. It could save your life.”