United Kingdom

Surbiton teacher shocked to learn shoulder pain was lung cancer

A teacher from Surbiton has shared his moving story of how he learnt of a lung cancer after experiencing severe pain in his shoulder.

Maths teacher Nick Windsor suffered intense pain in his shoulder for months before getting breathless, which was when doctors treating him began to realise the severity of his condition.

Sharing his story alongside the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, Nick described how he was at first told the shoulder pain would likely ease up, only for his symptoms to worsen.

“I remember when it all started. I was in a lesson, writing on the board and I had a sudden pain in my shoulder. At the time, I thought I probably just needed to get a bit fitter,” he said.

“Then we visited Kew Gardens and I ended up carrying my then three-year-old son around for most of the day, and the pain just got worse. I couldn’t even lie down. So, I called my doctor.

“Quite understandably, the doctor said it should settle down. But the pain didn’t clear up.”

Eventually, Nick was referred to a shoulder specialist but had to wait for three months for an appointment. Throughout that time, his symptoms were so severe he felt compelled to call repeatedly describing the severity of the pain and lack of sleep it was causing. Finally his case was pushed forward and a CT scan was scheduled.

The specialist he saw at the time expected it was likely just typical wear and tear, and offered him an injection to help clear things up, but Nick said he was told the level of pain still didn’t match that prognosis.

“I appreciate it’s so hard for doctors and specialists, but shoulder pain is a key symptom of lung cancer,” he pointed out.

“So, the injection didn’t really help and, by then, I was also starting to get breathless. I went back to my doctor, and at this point, he looked a little concerned. He gave me an inhaler and steroids but said if it didn’t work in three days to come back, which I did. That was when he sent me for a chest x-ray, and we finally started down the road to diagnosis,” Nick added.

The father of two was subsequently diagnosed with lung cancer, and told that while there is currently no cure for his case, he could be treated.

Nick lives with his family in Long Ditton, Surbiton, and described the improvement since he started treatment: “It was within about two weeks of starting treatment, I immediately started to feel better. The pain started to go down and is continuing to reduce. I’m getting stronger again.

“I’m very much a hopeful person. Anything could happen and so much is being done in terms of research. I like to say there is currently no cure for my condition. Note that word: Currently,” he said.

Nick is now helping the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation in promoting ways to detect the disease at its the earliest stage, and raising awareness of the signs and symptoms.

The charity use spot the difference exercises to point out key symptoms of the disease, which can include: a persistent cough that lasts three weeks or more, breathlessness, coughing up blood, hoarseness, fatigue, loss of appetite, back pain and ‘clubbing’ of the end of the fingers.

In many cases, symptoms only become obvious when the disease has already spread. As a result, around 75 per cent of people in the UK found to have lung cancer are diagnosed when their condition is already terminal.

Every year just under 49,000 people in the UK will learn they have the disease, and around 35,000 people will die of it, the Roy Castle Foundation point out.

The charity’s CEO Paula Chadwick, said: “Nick’s experience shows just how vital it is to recognise seemingly small signs that something isn’t quite right, and to take action straightaway… have there been any subtle changes? Anything our friends or family have told us they’re concerned about? If so, don’t hesitate, go to see your GP and get it checked out.”



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