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‘I wasn’t showing any signs of lung cancer — the only red flag was pain in my back’

When Denise Cannon went to see her GP about back pain, she didn’t expect it would lead to a cancer diagnosis. Here she talks about her treatment, the outlook moving forward, and learning to cope with the emotional impact of the disease

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Denise Cannon from Baldoyle, Co Dublin, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2015. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Denise Cannon from Baldoyle, Co Dublin, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2015. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Denise Cannon from Baldoyle, Co Dublin, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2015. Photo: Steve Humphreys

After developing a back injury following a fall in her teens, Denise Cannon was used to feeling pain in her lower back. But in February 2015, it became excruciating so she went to see her GP, who prescribed painkillers. It was believed she was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, so she was referred to hospital for tests. After undergoing an MRI two months later, she was told she had a suspected fracture. This led to a referral to an orthopaedic surgeon, but further tests revealed the shocking news — the fracture was due to a secondary tumour caused by lung cancer.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness month and while the disease mostly affects people over the age of 50, the Dublin woman was only 45 when she was diagnosed. “On April 8, 2015, I was told that secondary cancer had been found in the base of my back, as a growing tumour had broken one of my vertebrates,” Denise says. “There was also a tumour on my left hip, but as they hadn’t found the primary cause, I would need further tests. Later on, an oncology doctor arrived and asked if I knew what was going on. I relayed what I knew and she said she thought I had been told the full diagnosis, and went on to tell me that I had lung cancer, which, although treatable, was not curable.”


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