John Crofts finds himself saying a silent prayer of thanks every April, as the family mark son Joe’s ‘lung-iversary’ – eight years on from Joe’s lung cancer diagnosis.
Joe was diagnosed in 2011, aged 35, after four months of struggling to shift a suspected chest infection.
The IT worker, from Mauchline in Ayrshire, went to his GP for another course of antibiotics, when the locum GP he saw that day immediately sent him for an emergency chest x-ray, followed by a CT scan.
Two days after the CT scan, Joe attended an appointment where the consultant explained that the previous scans had shown a suspected tumour in his lung, which they expected to confirm with tests, including a bronchoscopy, and biopsy.
Shortly afterwards, Joe was told the cancer had been found early, and surgery to remove the tumour was scheduled two weeks later.
Speaking about the time, Joe’s father John, 71, said:
“It was such a shock. Joe’s brain had gone into freewheel and we were the same. Jean and I were in our early sixties at the time and Joe was in his thirties. We love him dearly and felt so damned helpless as there was literally nothing we could do.”
After surgery, Joe needed no further treatment, returning to work three months later. He got back on his bike to help with his recovery, which led to him taking on cycle challenges to raise money for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, most recently completing a charity cycle from London to Paris.
“He was so, so brave. I remember him walking around the ward on his frame, and us doing our best not to cry. We were told that the news was good, that the growth was caught before it spread. I wanted to believe it, but was still terrified.
“Gradually, Joe got better and stronger, and it finally dawned on me that he wasn’t going to die.
“I’m also in awe of how he’s handled his recovery. I still call him my hero. Every April I find myself saying a silent thank you. Although it was heartbreaking at the time, it’s such a happy story.
“That gratitude is there every day, and at the big milestones since his recovery like his marriage to his partner Deborah.
“It’s so important that people don’t ignore symptoms, as Joe probably wouldn’t be here if his tumour hadn’t been found at that early stage.”
“When you go through something like that, you do think that you’re going to make big changes to your life and do things differently. When in reality, once you fully recover, normality takes over and life goes on.
“I still get check-ups every year, and when the calendar appointment comes around, I do get a bit uptight. But it’s great to get the full MOT and have that reassurance. Every day I’m thankful for the chance I’ve been given.”