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Mother, 36, devastated after terminal lung cancer diagnosis

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A mother who has never smoked and blamed her persistent cough on Covid was devastated after learning she has terminal lung cancer.  

Becky Davis, 36, from Redditch, Worcestershire developed a cough at the start of 2020 but as the pandemic struck, became convinced she was suffering with Covid-19. 

The single mum was blindsided in July 2020 when doctors revealed that her symptoms were down to a rare form of cancer, which chemotherapy is not effective against. 

She desperately wants more time with her daughter Lexi, six, and is combining targeted therapy on the NHS with a form of specialist radiotherapy only available privately at her stage.  

Becky’s family have raised £16,000 to fund a course of the treatment, which she described as the ‘last shot’ to prolong her life.   

Mother-of-one Becky Davis, 36, from Redditch, Worcestershire, who has never smoked and blamed her persistent cough on Covid was devastated to she has terminal lung cancer. The single mum is pictured with daughter Lexi, six

Mother-of-one Becky Davis, 36, from Redditch, Worcestershire, who has never smoked and blamed her persistent cough on Covid was devastated to she has terminal lung cancer. The single mum is pictured with daughter Lexi, six 

‘I never thought it’d happen to me. I’m so young. I don’t smoke,’ said Becky. 

‘At first, I just couldn’t understand it. But I want everyone to know that any of us can get cancer. It can happen to anyone at all.’

When Becky’s cough began in January 2020 she thought it was a run-of-the mill infection, although it rapidly worsened and started interfering with her everyday life.

‘I was coughing. I’d be sick. It was awful,’ said Becky. 

Becky developed a cough at the start of 2020 (pictured) but as the pandemic struck, became convinced she was suffering with Covid-19

Becky developed a cough at the start of 2020 (pictured) but as the pandemic struck, became convinced she was suffering with Covid-19 

She is combining targeted therapy on the NHS with a form of specialist radiotherapy only available privately at her stage. Becky is pictured during treatment

She is combining targeted therapy on the NHS with a form of specialist radiotherapy only available privately at her stage. Becky is pictured during treatment 

Becky was becoming increasingly tired and losing weight, but when March 2020 lockdown hit, the mum became convinced she had Covid. 

‘I did so, so many tests, but they all came back negative,’ she said. ‘I’d be in the supermarket, during my hour a day outside, and people were glaring at me as I hacked up.’

What are rare ALK-positive cancers that are immune to chemotherapy? 

ALK Positive lung cancer is a relatively rare form of lung cancer caused by the abnormal rearrangement of the Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK) gene.  

Patients who are ALK-positive tend to be younger than the average lung cancer patient. 

Half are under 50 years of age when diagnosed, some are much younger.  

The vast majority of patients are female and are non-smokers. Most patients are diagnosed at Stage 4. 

Patients with stage four ALK-positive lung cancer will likely be prescribed a pill called a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) or ALK-inhibitor.

Within one or two years, the cancer is likely to evolve and the ALK-inhibitor will stop controlling all of the cancer.

Source: ALK Positive UK/American Lung Association 

 

With tight restrictions keeping people apart, she was only able to speak to her GP on the phone when she contacted the surgery in April.

‘I do think the pandemic could have affected how things ended up for me’, she said. 

‘I couldn’t see anyone. No one was able to listen to my chest. I just kept having telephone appointments, being prescribed more antibiotics, then left to get on with it.

‘All the while, my cough was getting worse and worse.’

Eventually sent for further tests at the hospital, she was at work when she received an alarming call from her doctor in July 2020.

She recalled: ‘I found a meeting room, was sat there on my own just trying to listen to what this person was saying.

‘That’s when they told me there was a mass on my right lung. I said, “Are you talking about cancer?”. She said, “It could be”.

‘I was just hysterical. I had a five-year-old to think about.’

Becky then had a biopsy which confirmed she had stage four ALK-positive lung cancer – a rare form of the disease with abnormal arrangement of the anaplastic lymphoma kinase gene.

The vast majority of sufferers, like Becky, are non-smokers. Most are female and half of those diagnosed are under 50.

‘I’d stay up at night reading about this cancer and finally it made sense,’ she said. ‘I hoped then that I had years, not months left. That was some kind of reassurance.’

Even harder than accepting the diagnosis herself was breaking the news to her daughter.

She said: ‘I told Lexi right away. I don’t believe in Heaven, but that idea seemed to give her some comfort.

‘So, now she knows Mummy is going to Heaven. But she thinks she can just come up there and visit me.

‘I don’t want to strip away her innocence, but we talk about it often. I tell her I’ve got cancer and I won’t be here forever. I want her to know what’s coming.’

Becky's family have raised £16,000 to fund a course of the treatment, which she described as the 'last shot' to prolong her life and spend as much time as she can with daughter Lexi (pictured)

Becky’s family have raised £16,000 to fund a course of the treatment, which she described as the ‘last shot’ to prolong her life and spend as much time as she can with daughter Lexi (pictured)

With chemotherapy being ineffective against her form of the disease, Becky tried two separate forms of medication aimed at controlling the condition and prolonging her life, but neither have worked for her.

Her cancer was originally in both lungs, several lymph nodes and her breast bone. ​​​​​​It has now cleared everywhere but her right lung, where there is progression.

‘I don’t know how long I’ve got left,’ she said. Obviously, I hope it’s years, but all I can do is wait and see. I’m having blood tests every four weeks and scans every three months.’

Becky was hopeful that Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) treatment – using small, thin beams of radiation directed from different angles that meet at the tumour, meaning it gets a high dose – would prolong her life.

No longer working as an administrator, Becky is channelling all her energy into making memories with her daughter. Becky, pictured with her daughter Lexi in Easter 2020

No longer working as an administrator, Becky is channelling all her energy into making memories with her daughter. Becky, pictured with her daughter Lexi in Easter 2020 

Sadly, she was told it was not available to her on the NHS at her stage, so her family have raised £16,000 to fund a course of treatment.

She said: ‘The cancer is everywhere at a cellular level now. I have four more sessions of SABR over the next couple of weeks. I’ll then need to wait three months, to see if it’s worked.

‘Nothing will be a cure. Not at this point. All I can hope is that it gives me more time with Lexi. ‘There’s no money for any further treatment after this, so this is it. My last ​​​​​​shot.’

No longer working as an administrator, Becky is channelling all her energy into making memories with her daughter.  

Becky says that even harder than accepting the diagnosis herself was breaking the news to her daughter. The pair are pictured at home in June 2021 shortly before Becky's diagnosis

Becky says that even harder than accepting the diagnosis herself was breaking the news to her daughter. The pair are pictured at home in June 2021 shortly before Becky’s diagnosis 

Becky is hopeful that stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) will give her more time with her daughter

Becky is hopeful that stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) will give her more time with her daughter

She said: ‘We used to be really active together. Now I can’t do quite as much, as all my treatment has side effects, so we spend time at home.

‘We enjoy little things like crafting. We’ll make T-shirts, decorate mugs, that kind of thing.

‘Lexi loves making things and I know we’re truly creating memories at the same time – moments she will be able to treasure when mummy goes to heaven.’

Becky is supporting Cancer Research UK’s vital work. To play your part and help support research that will beat cancer, visit www.cruk.org.

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