“Don’t ignore the symptoms” is the clear message from a former Walsall lung cancer patient who is urging people to get themselves checked out.
Ex-engineer Philip Huggins’ life changed when he received the diagnosis of lung cancer in March last year.
The 73-year-old was experiencing persistent coughing. As someone who classed himself as fit and a non-smoker he passed it off as nothing.
After three to four weeks had passed, however, and the coughing still hadn’t improved, Philip’s wife – who is a nurse – urged him to go and speak to his GP.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic he was unable to go into the GP practice but after a telephone discussion with the doctor he was sent for an x-ray at Walsall Manor Hospital.
He said: “I joked with the woman doing my scan that I thought everything’s ok and walked out the room completely unaware that I would get a call for another scan a few days later which I though was a bit unusual.
“The consultant then saw me afterwards and showed me my x-ray where there was a small lesion on my lung. Not being sure what it was he suggested I get a PET scan at New Cross Hospital where they then told me that I would need to have a biopsy.
“I had the operation at the Priory Hospital and was notified afterwards that the lesion was too deep in the lung so they couldn’t do a full biopsy and could only take the top bit off.
“I was told the bit of the lesion they did take off was cancer but luckily it had not spread anywhere else.”
When asked how he felt when he was told the diagnosis the father-of-two said:
“I was in total shock. It was a numb feeling; it doesn’t sink in straight away. I thought to myself I’ve always been so fit and was out all the time fishing and walking, I never expected this to happen to me.
“I am so appreciative of my wife, she was brilliant and calm as nurses are. If I was on my own it would’ve been a different story. I tend to worry and stress but she was behind me and supported me throughout.”
When asked what he would like people to know Philip said:
“You know in your own mind if a cough isn’t right. Even though I was trying to ignore my cough I knew it felt different, I knew something else was going on.
“With covid especially it’s easy to confuse symptoms like coughing but it’s better to be safe than sorry and get checked. The longer you leave it, the worse it will get. I know everyone’s initial reaction is to ignore it but please don’t as catching it early is the best thing you can do.
“It might save your life, it saved mine.”
“I had my six month check-up in February and it came back all clear which is great. I am really grateful to all the doctors and nurses in the NHS; they did a great job and looked after me.
“From start to finish, they helped me, all within three months – it may seem like a long time but it’s not. If you have any symptoms you need to get checked as they do it as quick as they can. I don’t know what I would’ve done without the NHS we’re really lucky to have it.”
Philip is supporting the national “Help Us, Help You” lung cancer campaign lead by NHS England and NHS Improvement, together with Public Health England.
Watch this video to see how you can differentiate lung cancer and covid-19.