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1 lung, 1 life and 100 miles

41 year old Dave has 1 lung. But he didn’t let it stop him from completing the Prudential RideLondon 100 mile cycle last year.

3 weeks before my 40th birthday, and on the eve of our daughters 6th birthday, I was diagnosed with a terminal lung cancer – mesothelioma. With an average life expectancy of 12 to 18 months, it was a bombshell.  No words can describe how my wife and I felt. 

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is mainly caused by exposure to asbestos dust. It’s so rare for someone my age to get this type of cancer. I’m only 40! You expect the doctors to say: “this is your condition, and this is the treatment.” But with mesothelioma, there’s no cure.

The doctors gave me several options. I could have my left lung fully removed or just partially removed. It was such a tough decision. If I had it partly removed, I’d still be able to live an active life and keep up with my kids. If I had the whole lung removed, I might have been able to live longer and watch them grow up.

Although the risk of the operation was huge, I chose to have my entire left lung removed so I had the best chance of spending more time with my wife, kids, family and friends.

I had my whole left lung removed

3 weeks later, I had my whole left lung removed. The surgeons said it would feel like I’ve been hit by a truck, and that each step would be a marathon. Looking back, I wouldn’t argue with this advice, other than the truck reversed back over me! I had a very critical 12 hours post-op, which had everyone worried. I was in hospital for 2 weeks after the surgery and eventually I was allowed home. It was so good to go home and see the kids in time for the Christmas break.

Recovering at home and learning to adjust to life with only 1 lung was difficult. Especially as I’m not used to sitting and watching daytime TV. I tried to start walking and get active but I’d get so breathless. I remember once, going to a local mobility shop to buy a sleeping aid, and it just hit me and I broke down in the shop!

Week by week, I gradually improved, I could walk further and I started chemotherapy in January 2016.  It hit me more than I expected, it took all my energy!  I always say now that I would rather have my lung out, than 4 rounds of chemotherapy!  After getting through the 4th round of chemo I was finally feeling a bit better (thanks to the steroids) and more like myself. The following CT scan after that was reassuring news as the oncologist said the cancer hadn’t progressed!

I wanted to inspire others

After watching my brother in law and a close friend complete RideLondon 100 the year before, I decided I would attempt the impossible and enter myself! RideLondon is a 100 mile cycle through London and Surrey. I wanted to set myself a challenge, raise awareness of this terrible disease, and hopefully inspire others. So, in January I started cycling. 

I managed to cycle 7 miles at first, after stopping at least 4 times! The more I trained, the fitter I became. I attended 8 weeks of pulmonary rehabilitation, which improved my core strength dramatically. By making use of the BLF’s 12 week training guide, I was on my way from being a novice to someone who could attempt the 100 miles! 

Hills are challenging

Cycling up hills has always been challenging, so doing it with 1 lung brings extra difficulties! When my legs are hurting the most, I reflect back to when I needed a zimmer-frame in hospital, just to get a shower! To be in the position to even attempt these hills is a privilege and brings tears to my eyes! There aren’t many people with my disease that live longer than I have already, never mind lead a 'normal life’ and complete challenges like this.

Crossing the finishing line in front of Buckingham Palace was an incredible experience.  My family and friends were so proud - it was such an emotional experience and one that I will never forget.

I hope that I have been able to inspire others that no matter what your health situation is, you can achieve your goals. 

You can read more about Dave's journey on his website.

Over the next 30 years mesothelioma will kill an estimated 60,000 people. Help us change that by donating towards mesothelioma research today.

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27 July 2017