Today marks International Lung Cancer Day. Below, lung cancer patient Denise Cannon shares her story:



In April 2015 Dublin local Denise Cannon began experiencing intense pain in her lower back “The pain was so bad that if I sneezed I would have to brace myself for the level of discomfort. I was also finding it slightly harder to get out of bed each morning but I wasn’t going through any of the typical symptoms of lung cancer, there was no cough or breathlessness.”

When Denise was young she had injured a vertebrae in her back so believed this might be the cause of her pain. She went for an x-ray and was quickly called back into hospital for further tests.

“I remember it so clearly, I was in a private meeting room and they told me they had found secondary bone cancer. Initially they weren’t sure where the primary cancer was, they later discovered it was in my lung. I was then given my final diagnosis of stage four non-small cell lung cancer.”

Denise had lost her mother to lung cancer five years previously and had also lost her father to lung cancer twenty-two years previously. She explains that the word cancer had “terrified” her ever since. 

Despite this, Denise said she had an unusual reaction to her diagnosis “It is strange but I experienced a very warm sensation all over my body, I felt quite calm. I had the colour orange in my mind. It was an abnormal reaction really, maybe it was some sort of shock.”

“Initially it didn’t dawn on me, what my prognosis was. I never asked the doctors at the time, and when they told me it was treatable but not curable, I just didn’t think too much into it. It was only about a year and a half later when I needed to supply my medical records to someone that I noticed that the doctors had given me nine months to a year to live.” She recalls

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"On a day to day basis, I try not to talk or think about my cancer unless someone else brings it up. I just think if I sat around worrying, then life is going to pass me by."

Denise began chemotherapy every three weeks for a total of five months followed by one session of radiation which she had a negative reaction to.

In October 2015 following her treatment, Denise went in to get her scan results “At first the doctor thought he had been given the wrong charts. They couldn’t believe I had responded so well, there was so much improvement.”

“Even though I was delighted everything had worked out so well, I think I found the following period the most difficult. I was drained and had little energy, I used always be such a busy and active person. I began to feel angry and depressed that I could no longer do what I once could.

I missed that old part of me. I pushed all those who were close to me away. I am glad they stuck around because I am sure it wasn’t easy.”

Denise was scheduled in for check-ups every three months which then shifted to every six months. Unfortunately in 2018 a scan showed up cancer in one of the lymph nodes near Denise’s kidney.

“I began immunotherapy treatment every two weeks however my bowel was badly affected and I experienced terrible side effects. I also had other conditions in addition to the cancer, including diabetes, Addison's disease and coeliac disease. I then changed to a monthly dose versus every two weeks.

“During my immunotherapy treatment, the doctors didn’t want me doing any driving so I made use of the Irish Cancer Society Volunteer Driver Service. I found it absolutely brilliant. Some days I would come out of treatment and I would be so exhausted I would just fall asleep in the back. Other days I would have great chats with my driver.” Denise explains.

“In February of last year they decided to halt the treatment and give my body a break. Thankfully since then all my scans have been stable.” 

“On a day to day basis, I try not to talk or think about my cancer unless someone else brings it up. I just think if I sat around worrying, then life is going to pass me by. 

If something positive has come from my cancer diagnosis, it is that it has stopped me worrying about the tiny silly things. I have just signed on to become a volunteer at my local Daffodil Centre, I am really excited to be able to use my own experience to help others.”


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If you have worries or concerns about cancer, you can speak confidentially to an Irish Cancer Society Cancer Nurse through the Freephone Support Line on 1800 200 700.

Monday to Friday, 9.00am - 5.00pm

Roz, Cancer Nurseline

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