Jay’s story

Jay Silva – written by Jo-Anne Silva

In early 2011, when 37 weeks pregnant with my second daughter, my husband Jay was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. He was 39 years of age, and was neither a smoker nor a former smoker.

This was a devastating diagnosis for our family. Without any real standout risk factors, lung cancer simply wasn’t expected, anticipated or even remotely contemplated.

This immediately highlighted the need for all Queenslanders to be aware of the signs and symptoms of lung cancer.

Stage four lung cancer is incurable, and Jay was given an extremely poor prognosis. Medical experts estimated no longer than 12 months of survival.

On diagnosis the cancer was found in both of Jay’s lungs, multiple lymph nodes, trachea, ribs, vertebrae, and several muscles in his neck, arm and leg. His left bronchus was nearly occluded.

Since diagnosis, the cancer has also spread to his brain and he has survived a malignant cardiac tamponade and malignant pleural effusions (fluid around the heart, and the lung).

Jay has had five rounds of cancer treatment to date – two rounds of standard approved treatment (radiation, chemotherapy and oral target therapy), two drugs in trial accessed on compassionate grounds, and one clinical trial.

Jay remained working throughout his treatment until late 2014 when he retired for medical reasons, and the absence of any foreseeable treatment options. He currently continues on clinical trial.

Throughout our journey living with this particular cancer, we have noticed that lung cancer is often perceived only in context with its biggest risk factor, smoking. This association seemed to affect how most people responded to his diagnosis.

Lung cancer seemed unfathomable by many, due to the absence of this predominate risk factor in his life. As time went on however, we realised he wasn’t alone. Many non-smokers were affected by this disease – and those diagnosed, risk factors aside, was affected by the stigma associated with this disease.

Creating awareness for lung cancer and helping abolish the stigma associated with lung cancer has become very important to us.

We see many stories about lung cancer combined with awareness about the common risk factor, but few stories that actually alert people to the fact that it can occur in those without risk factors.

We feel that this is an important story for people to be aware of, for early detection and also in moving forward in regard to the stigma of this illness.

This is why we decided to share our story and speak up.

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with cancer, reach out for support on 13 11 20 or via the Get Support tab at www.cancerqld.org.au.

Around 2200 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in Queensland each year. It is the fifth most common cancer, but the leading cause of cancer death.

The main symptoms of lung cancer can include:
• A new dry cough or change in a chronic cough
• Chest pain or breathlessness
• Repeated bouts of pneumonia or bronchitis
• Coughing or spitting up blood.

Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have cancer, but it’s important to speak with your GP and get checked.