Ruthra Coventry, 40, from Aberdeen, was diagnosed with stage I lung cancer in October 2018, after seeing her GP about persistent illness and chest infections – something that was unusual for the otherwise fit and healthy mum of one.
Ruthra, an anesthetist who works for NHS Grampian, was referred for scans and told she had a mass in her upper right lung. Because it was localised and found at an early stage, the tumour was able to be removed with surgery, with no other treatment needed.
Ruthra has credited the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation for supporting her through a time that was draining both mentally and physically – which is why she’s keen to help the charity raise awareness that lung cancer can happen to anyone.
“During the summer of 2018, I kept getting bad chest infections which was unusual as I considered myself to be a fit and healthy person. I ended up in A&E because I couldn’t breathe deeply due to a sharp pain in my chest. I went through tests and gave samples but nothing was giving an answer as to why I felt ill all the time.
“I also had a prolonged cough, but because my child who was two at the time was in nursery, I just put it down to him bringing home bugs.
“Then one day I coughed up a bit of blood and realised there was something really not right. I went to my GP and was referred to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary so the recurring chest infections could be investigated.”
Tests led to Ruthra being diagnosed with bronchiectasis, but the scans showed a small mass had been found in the upper part of her right lung. Following the initial tests, she underwent a full body scan, which came back clear.
“As soon as I heard the word mass, I went into denial. I couldn’t process it at all, it was such a shock. Cancer was the last thing I expected to hear. I was young and the fittest I’d ever been, having recently run my first 10k.
“Even when I told my husband I must have been numb from the shock as I couldn’t understand why he was so worried. It was a lot to take in.
“Things moved pretty quickly from then. I was referred to the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Glasgow where I had a right upper lobectomy to remove the tumour.”
Following a prolonged period of recovery, Ruthra returned to work eight months later, doing a desk job initially, before her full return.
“My tumour was found early, and I feel lucky that it was diagnosed at a stage where it was localised, and able to be removed with surgery, without the need for chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
“Based on what happened to me, my message to anyone would be to get checked. I know it’s easy to put off, but it can make all the difference to being diagnosed at a stage where its able to be treated.
“After I’d spoken to my GP about being referred for scans, I started to feel a bit better, and I almost cancelled my appointment which doesn’t bear thinking about now. Don’t put it off, because it could save your life.”