A former nurse from Gorton, who worked in intensive care and then at The Christie in Manchester, is sharing his experience of being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer to help publicise lung cancer awareness month during November.
Raad Islam, aged 32, was diagnosed with lung cancer in the summer of 2021. He had never smoked. “I had been experiencing sporadic back pain for a few years,” he said. “However, it got worse towards the end of 2019 and very painful by the summer of 2020. There were periods of stability, but by March 2021, it was so bad I could no longer work. A month later and I could no longer walk.
“A scan confirmed the worst, that I had cancer, and the day after, I was admitted to hospital. I was then referred to The Christie for cancer treatment.
“Hearing that news, I felt pretty much broken, like my core had collapsed in on itself. But in an almost morbid way strangely relieved to finally know what was causing the pain. A lot had been going on for me around that time. I’d worked in intensive care during the COVID-19 pandemic, had moved house, and had family members suffering from COVID-19.
“Family and friends reacted with shock and grief, but the news also put some of these relationships under a lot of strain. But I have also made some really good friends as a result of my diagnosis.
“Being terminally ill has limited my treatment options. The cancer has spread from my lungs to the spine and brain. So I’m taking two drugs, osimertinib and denosumab and a range of painkillers and supportive medication as part of my palliative treatment. The osimertinib targets a specific mutation within my cancer.
“The drugs have helped increase my mobility by a small but noticeable amount compared with the summer of 2021, but I am still taking a lot of painkillers. However, these make my life a lot more bearable and have given me some ability to do the things I still want to do.”
An avid gamer, Raad is hopeful that the drugs will continue to enable him to play video games and enjoy the pleasure of being able to take a short walk.
“I’ve been focussing on what needs to be done, such as arranging funerals and graves, making a will, granting power of attorney and making decisions about resuscitation.”
Discussing his experience of being treated at The Christie, Raad said: “I am remarkably grateful for the care and treatment I have received from my doctors, nurses and other support staff at The Christie. I have nothing but gratitude and respect for the lovely people that have looked after me and provided so much help and support.”
Raad spent the last 8 months of his career as a nurse working at The Christie before being fully supported by the Trust to retire on the grounds of ill health.
“The fact that my professional trajectory brought me to The Christie shortly before I became a patient at this premier research institute for cancer is a remarkable coincidence,” he said.
Marie Eaton, lung cancer clinical nurse specialist at The Christie, added: “Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer. Around 47,000 people are diagnosed with the condition every year in the UK. Like Raad, between 10% and 20% of people who develop lung cancer have never smoked. Anyone with lungs can get lung cancer.
“Although some lung cancers are not curable, with good treatment and ongoing care, patients may be able to lead a relatively normal life for several years. New treatments are also on the horizon, and The Christie is actively involved in numerous clinical trials for lung cancer.”