A mother who has never smoked and thought her persistent cough was due to Covid has been caught unawares by a diagnosis of end-stage lung cancer.
Single mom Becky Davis was unable to see a doctor because of the pandemic when she first noticed her symptoms in January 2020.
The 36-year-old administrator said: “I think the pandemic could have affected how things have gone for me.
“I couldn’t see anyone. Nobody could listen to my chest. I just kept having phone appointments, getting prescribed more antibiotics, and then leaving to continue.
“Meanwhile, my cough got worse and worse.”
She is dying to spend more time with her six-year-old daughter, Lexi, but chemotherapy is not effective for her form of the disease. That’s why she’s combining targeted therapy from the NHS with a form of specialized lung radiation therapy that’s only available privately at her stage.
Still shocked by her diagnosis, Becky, from Redditch, Worcestershire, said: “I never thought this would happen to me. i am so young I do not smoke.
“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.”
When Becky’s cough started in January 2020, she thought it was a common infection, although it quickly got worse and began interfering with her daily life.
She said: “I coughed. i would be sick It was awful.”
But pandemic fever soon hit the country and Becky was tired, losing weight and had a constant need to clear her throat when lockdown hit in March 2020 and Becky was convinced she had Covid.
She said: “I took so many tests but they all came back negative.
“I was at the supermarket, out during my hour a day, and people stared at me while I was chopping.”
With strict restrictions keeping people apart, she was only able to speak to her GP on the phone when she contacted the practice in April.
Eventually sent to the hospital for further testing, she was at work when she received an alarming call from her doctor in July 2020.
She recalled: “I found a meeting room and sat there alone and just tried to listen to what this person was saying.
“Then they told me there was a mass on my right lung.
“I said, ‘Are you talking about cancer?’ She said, ‘That could be.’
“I was just hysterical. I had to think of a five-year-old.”
Becky then had a biopsy, which confirmed that she had stage 4 ALK-positive lung cancer.
These lung cancers are a rare form of the disease and have an 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 years old.
“I stayed up at night reading about this cancer and eventually it made sense,” she said.
“I was hoping at the time that I would have years and not months to spare. That was a kind of reassurance.”
Breaking the news to her daughter was even harder than accepting the diagnosis itself.
She said: “I told Lexi straight away. I don’t believe in heaven, but that thought seemed to give her some comfort.
“So now she knows mom is going to heaven. But she thinks she can just come up and see me.
“I don’t want to take away her innocence, but we talk about it a lot. I tell her I have cancer and I won’t be here forever. I want her to know what’s coming.”
Because chemotherapy was ineffective against her form of the disease, Becky tried two different forms of medication aimed at controlling the condition and prolonging her life, but neither worked for her.
Her cancer was originally in both lungs, several lymph nodes and her breastbone. It’s cleared everywhere now except in her right lung where it’s progressing.
“I don’t know how long I have left,” she said.
“Obviously I hope it’s years, but I can only wait and see.
“I have blood tests every four weeks and scans every three months.”
Becky hoped treatment with stereotactic ablative radiation therapy (SABR) — which uses small, thin beams of radiation that hit the tumor from different angles, meaning it receives a high dose — would prolong her life.
Unfortunately, she was told it was not available to her on the NHS at the time, so her family have raised £16,000 to fund treatment.
She said: “The cancer is now everywhere at the cellular level.
“I have four more SABR sessions over the next few weeks. I then have to wait three months to see if it worked.
“Nothing will be a cure. Not at this point. I can only hope that this will give me more time with Lexi.
“After that there is no money left for further treatment, so that’s it. My last shot.”
We’re building a community that wants to see the news through a female lens and feel inspired. We launched a newsletter, Grace, that aims to celebrate and inspire women – and men – all year round.
Positive, powerful stories and meaningful actions that make a difference to our audience are curated and delivered to your inbox each week. Grace is aimed primarily, but not exclusively, at a female audience and promises readers a little dose of inspiration and girl power.
Stories about people doing brilliant things. stories that matter. Stories that might brighten your day.
Becky no longer works so she can spend every free minute with her daughter and focuses all her energies on creating memories with the little girl she loves.
She said: “We used to be very active together. Now I can’t do quite as much as all my treatments have side effects, so we’re spending time at home.
“We enjoy small things like handicrafts. We make t-shirts, decorate mugs and so on.
“Lexi loves creating things and I know we’re really creating memories at the same time – moments to cherish when mom goes to heaven.”
Becky supports the important work of Cancer Research UK. To do your part and support the research that will defeat cancer, visit us www.cruk.org.
You can find more stories from where you live at near you.