Non-smoking mum of 36 who thought her cough was Covid was blindsided by terminal lung cancer diagnosis and is privately funding £16K treatment

·5-min read

A mum who has never smoked and thought her persistent cough was because of Covid was blindsided by a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer and is privately funding a £16,000 treatment in the hope of prolonging her life.

Administrator Becky Davis, 36, a single parent, desperately wants more time with her daughter Lexi, six, but chemotherapy is not effective against her form of the disease, so she is combining targeted therapy on the NHS with a form ofLung specialist radiotherapy which is only available privately at her stage.

Still shocked to the core by her diagnosis, Becky, of Redditch, Worcestershire, said: “I never thought it’d happen to me. I’m so young. I don’t smoke.

“At first, I just couldn’t understand it. But I want everyone to know that any of us can get cancer. It can happen to anyone at all.”

Becki with her daughter Lexi in June 2021 (Collect/PA Real Life).
Becki with her daughter Lexi in June 2021 (Collect/PA Real Life).

When Becky’s cough began in January 2020 she thought it was a run-of-the mill infection, although it rapidly worsened and started interfering with her everyday life.

She said: “I was coughing. I’d be sick. It was awful.”

But soon pandemic fever struck the country and, tired, losing weight and feeling a constant need to clear her throat, as the March 2020 lockdown hit, Becky became convinced she had Covid.

She said: “I did so, so many tests, but they all came back negative.

Becky with an alpaca in November 2019 before she was diagnosed with cancer (Collect/PA Real Life).
Becky with an alpaca in November 2019 before she was diagnosed with cancer (Collect/PA Real Life).

“I’d be in the supermarket, during my hour a day outside, and people were glaring at me as I hacked up.”

With tight restrictions keeping people apart, she was only able to speak to her GP on the phone when she contacted the surgery in April.

She said: “I do think the pandemic could have affected how things ended up for me.

“I couldn’t see anyone. No one was able to listen to my chest. I just kept having telephone appointments, being prescribed more antibiotics, then left to get on with it.

“All the while, my cough was getting worse and worse.”

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

Becky on a night out in 2019 before her cancer diagnosis (Collect/PA Real Life).
Becky on a night out in 2019 before her cancer diagnosis (Collect/PA Real Life).

She recalled: “I found a meeting room, was sat there on my own just trying to listen to what this person was saying.

“That’s when 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 had a five-year-old to think about.”

Becki and her daughter Lexi in early 2021 (Collect/PA Real Life).
Becki and her daughter Lexi in early 2021 (Collect/PA Real Life).

Becky then had a biopsy which confirmed she had stage four ALK-positive lung cancer.

A rare form of the disease, these lung cancers have an abnormal arrangement of the anaplastic lymphoma kinase gene.

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

“I’d stay up at night reading about this cancer and finally it made sense,” she said.

“I hoped then that I had years, not months left. That was some 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 that idea seemed to give her some comfort.

“So, now she knows Mummy is going to Heaven. But she thinks she can just come up there and visit me.

Becky, pictured with Lexi at Easter 2020, initially thought her cough was Covid-19 (Collect/PA Real Life).
Becky, pictured with Lexi at Easter 2020, initially thought her cough was Covid-19 (Collect/PA Real Life).

“I don’t want to strip away her innocence, but we talk about it often. I tell her I’ve got cancer and I won’t be here forever. I want her to know what’s coming.”

With chemotherapy being 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 have worked for her.

Her cancer was originally in both lungs, several lymph nodes and her breast bone. It has now cleared everywhere but her right lung, where there is progression.

“I don’t know how long I’ve got left,” she said.

“Obviously, I hope it’s years, but all I can do is wait and see.

“I’m having blood tests every four weeks and scans every three months.”

Becky at a music festival before she had cancer, in August 2017 (Collect/PA Real Life).
Becky at a music festival before she had cancer, in August 2017 (Collect/PA Real Life).

Becky was hopeful that Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) treatment – using small, thin beams of radiation directed from different angles that meet at the tumour, meaning it gets a high dose – would prolong her life.

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

She said: “The cancer is everywhere at a cellular level now.

“I have four more sessions of SABR over the next couple of weeks. I’ll then need to wait three months, to see if it’s worked.

Becky, pictured here with Lexi four months after her diagnosis, has raised £16,000 for private treatment in the hope of prolonging her life (Collect/PA Real Life).
Becky, pictured here with Lexi four months after her diagnosis, has raised £16,000 for private treatment in the hope of prolonging her life (Collect/PA Real Life).

“Nothing will be a cure. Not at this point. All I can hope is that it gives me more time with Lexi.

“There’s no money for any further treatment after this, so this is it. My last shot.”

No longer working, so she can spend every spare moment possible with her daughter, Becky is channelling all her energy into making memories with the little girl she loves.

She said: “We used to be really active together. Now I can’t do quite as much, as all my treatment has side effects, so we spend time at home.

“We enjoy little things like crafting. We’ll make T-shirts, decorate mugs, that kind of thing.

“Lexi loves making things and I know we’re truly creating memories at the same time – moments she will be able to treasure when Mummy goes to heaven.”

Becky is supporting Cancer Research UK’s vital work. To play your part and help support research that will beat cancer, visit www.cruk.org

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting