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Mother, 36, devastated after terminal lung cancer diagnosis

A never-smoker mother who blamed Covid for her persistent cough was devastated to learn she has terminal lung cancer.

Becky Davis, 36, from Redditch, Worcestershire, contracted a cough in early 2020, but when the pandemic hit she became convinced she was suffering from Covid-19.

The single mother was taken aback in July 2020 when doctors revealed that her symptoms were due to a rare cancer, which chemotherapy is ineffective against.

Desperate for more time with her daughter Lexi, six, she is combining targeted therapy on the NHS with a form of specialist radiotherapy only available privately at her stage.

Becky’s family has raised £16,000 to fund a course of treatment, which she described as the “last chance” to extend her life.

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

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

“I never thought it would happen to me. I’m so young. I don’t smoke,” Becky said.

“At first I just didn’t understand. 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 worsened and started interfering with her daily life.

‘I coughed. I would be sick. It was terrible,’ Becky said.

Becky got a cough in early 2020 (pictured) but when the pandemic hit she became convinced she was suffering from Covid-19

Becky got a cough in early 2020 (pictured) but when the pandemic hit she became convinced she was suffering from Covid-19

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

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

Becky kept getting tired and losing weight, but when the lockdown hit in March 2020, the mother became convinced she had Covid.

“I did, so many tests, but they all came back negative,” she said. “I’d be at the grocery store, during my hour outside, and people would stare at me while I was hacking.”

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 the age of 50 when diagnosed, some are much younger.

The vast majority of patients are women and do not smoke. Most patients are diagnosed in 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 a year or two, the cancer will likely progress and the ALK inhibitor will stop controlling all cancers.

Source: ALK Positive UK/American Lung Association

With strict restrictions keeping people apart, she wasn’t able to speak to her GP on the phone until she contacted the practice in April.

“I think the pandemic may have affected how things turned out for me,” she said.

‘I couldn’t see anyone. No one could listen to my chest. I kept making appointments over the phone, was prescribed more antibiotics and then left to move on.

“All the while my cough got worse and worse.”

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

She recalled, “I found a conference room, sat there alone, and 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 “It could be”.

“I was just hysterical. I was thinking of a five-year-old.”

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

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

“I would stay up at night reading about this cancer and it finally made sense,” she said. “I hoped then that I had years, not months. That was a 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 the idea seemed to give her some comfort.

“So now she knows that Mama 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 often talk about it. I tell her I have cancer and I won’t be here forever. I want her to know what’s coming.’

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

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

Because chemotherapy was 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 has worked for her.

Her cancer was originally in both lungs, several lymph nodes, and her sternum. It’s gone everywhere now, except in her right lung, where there’s progression.

“I don’t know how much longer I have,” she said. Of course I hope it takes years, but all I can do is wait and see. I have blood tests every four weeks and scans every three months.’

Becky hoped that stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) treatment — using small, thin beams of radiation that converge at the tumor from different angles, meaning she’s receiving a high dose — would prolong her life.

Becky no longer works as an administrator, but puts all her energy into making memories with her daughter.  Becky, in the picture with her daughter Lexi in Easter 2020

Becky no longer works as an administrator, but puts all her energy into making memories with her daughter. Becky, in the picture with her daughter Lexi in Easter 2020

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

She said, “The cancer is now everywhere at the cellular level. I have four SABR sessions in the coming weeks. I then have to wait three months to see if it works.

“Nothing will be a cure. Not at this moment. I can only hope it gives me more time with Lexi. “There’s no money for further treatment after this, so this is it. My last shot.’

Becky no longer works as an administrator, but puts all her energy into making memories with her daughter.

Becky says it was even harder than accepting the diagnosis herself, breaking the news to her daughter.  The couple will be photographed at home in June 2021, shortly before Becky's diagnosis

Becky says it was even harder than accepting the diagnosis herself, breaking the news to her daughter. The couple will be photographed 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 very active together. Now I can’t do much because all my treatments have side effects, so we spend time at home.

‘We enjoy small things like crafts. We’re going to make T-shirts, decorate mugs, that sort of thing.

“Lexi loves making things and I know that at the same time we are creating real memories — moments she’ll cherish when Mom goes to heaven.”

Becky supports the vital work of Cancer Research UK. Go to www.cruk.org to play your part and support research that will beat cancer.

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