As they celebrated their Diamond Wedding anniversary with a cruise around the Mediterranean, Dorothy and Michael McHale felt especially lucky to be marking 60 years as husband and wife.
Less than a year earlier, Dorothy had received a letter in the post inviting her to take part in the Leeds Lung Health Check, a pioneering screening programme funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research.
Dorothy, who was 80 at the time, hadn’t experienced any symptoms of having a lung problem, such as a cough or breathing difficulties.
However, due to her age and health background she was eligible for a check at the Leeds Lung Health Check’s mobile unit, and decided to book an appointment for peace of mind. She attended a check in December 2018 when the unit was at Elland Road football stadium, just a short drive from the couple’s home in Old Farnley.
The check included a lung function test and a special type of x-ray called a screening CT scan that can detect very early signs of lung disease. Dorothy, who worked as a tailor before retiring, said: “I thought ‘I’ve got nothing to lose, let’s go’. So I went along and didn’t think anything else about it.
The doctor told me I had made it look easy. After New Year, I received a phone call asking me to make an appointment at Leeds Chest Clinic. I went along to that and they mentioned I’d had a scan, and then it hit me. I realised they must have found something wrong.”
The scan showed a suspected tumour on Dorothy’s lung. Following further tests, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Thanks to the scan, it had been found at a very early stage, meaning the treatment she required was minimal. “The cancer was only tiny, about one centimetre I think,” Dorothy explained. “I was shocked. I wasn’t expecting it at all. I’d had hip and knee operations the year before so I was still recovering from that. Everything moved forward very quickly after that first appointment.”
Dorothy received five sessions of radiotherapy at St James’s University Hospital given over one week.
During her treatment she suffered from tiredness, and this continued for a while afterwards, but it wasn’t long before she was back to her usual activities, including gardening, shopping and socialising with friends.
Her quick recovery also meant she was able to start making plans to celebrate her milestone anniversary with her family.
Dorothy said: “Over New Year, my son had mentioned booking a cruise around the Mediterranean for our anniversary. I didn’t know what to do when I found out I had cancer just a few days later. I didn’t want to tell anyone and get them all upset if it was nothing. But in the end I had to tell them to hold fire. As soon as I left hospital after my final appointment and I knew I was going to be okay, I told my son to book it. I felt so lucky.”
Dorothy has now been given the ‘all clear’, and she attends regular check-ups to ensure the cancer hasn’t returned.
She added: “You don’t expect to get cancer. You think you’re not going to get it, but you can. We’re lucky to live in Leeds. The doctors and nurses at the Bexley Wing are fantastic, and they’re all working hard to make sure more people survive. “I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to take part in the Leeds Lung Health Check. I’m one of those people that believes you should face up to things like cancer. It doesn’t wait for you, it grows. The sooner you get treatment the better. I say to people just go for it, you should always get checked. It could save your life.”
About Yorkshire Cancer Research
• 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.
• Current statistics show that 594 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire every week.
• Our mission is for 2,000 more people to survive cancer every year in Yorkshire.
• There are lots of cancer problems across the region that need to be tackled on a local level. We work in partnership with researchers, clinicians, the NHS, public health bodies and other charities to fund innovative work in four key areas: prevention, early diagnosis, treatment and clinical trials.
• For more information, please visit www.yorkshirecancerresearch.org.uk or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.
Nikki Brady, Senior PR Officer, Yorkshire Cancer Research. Tel: 01423 877228. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org