When Emma Bishop got a persistent cough, she was told it was a chest infection that would go away on its own.
But shockingly, the mum-of-two was later diagnosed with lung cancer, despite being a non-smoker and having no history of the disease in her family.
The 38-year-old, who ran the London Marathon earlier this year while undergoing treatment, is raising awareness of the disease, in the hopes that others will spot early symptoms.
Emma tells Metro.co.uk: ‘I want to do everything I can to have people catch it earlier, because if mine had been caught earlier, I could have been cured.’
Emma, from London, began suffering with a cough in November 2021. Six weeks later, she also began to feel fatigued, and had a pain in her ribs.
‘I was absolutely exhausted, but I didn’t really take that as a symptom because I wasn’t thinking about it,’ says Emma.
‘I just thought I’m a mum, I’ve got a really busy job, I’m not sleeping very well, and I’m not feeling very well, so that’s why I’m tired.’
She decided to go to A&E for an X-ray, and she was told everything looked fine.
‘There wasn’t really an explanation,’ she says.
But six weeks later she got a call from a radiologist who said they’d spotted a grey area on her lungs, along with several swollen lymph nodes.
She was told that it looked like she had pneumonia and was put on antibiotics. Still, nothing changed.
After another X-ray, Emma was told that the lower lobe of her left lung had ‘entirely collapsed’.
After five days in hospital and yet more tests, Emma was finally told she had lung cancer.
She was sent for an MRI, which came back clear, and then a PET scan, which showed that the cancer had spread. In April 2022, she was diagnosed with stage 4 EGFR mutant non-small lung cancer.
‘I couldn’t really believe it,’ says Emma. ‘It doesn’t run in my family at all, there’s no history of it anywhere.
‘I’ve never smoked. It was not something that I ever would go through.’
Her biggest worry was that she might not be able to watch her children Edo, 4, and Bea, 5, grow up.
‘I didn’t know what was going to happen, and the thought of leaving my children right now, at four and five was just devastating,’ she says.
‘I wasn’t just worried that I was going to miss their lives, but I was worried about who was going to look after them, because there’s so much you do as a mum that no one else knows about.’
Thankfully, Emma’s cancer was treatable.
‘There was actually quite a lot of relief because it was a certain type of lung cancer that had a treatment that would work to control it for now,’ recalls Emma.
She was referred to the Royal Marsden hospital in London, where she was prescribed a drug called osimertinib, a cancer growth blocker that comes in pill form and needs to be taken daily.
A year later, the treatment is working wonders.
‘It’s done an amazing job so far, and there’s now no evidence of disease beyond the lung, which is incredible,’ says Emma.
That’s why she felt empowered to run the marathon.
‘I don’t really know what I was thinking,’ Emma laughs.
Training for a marathon while managing fatigue – a side effect of her treatment – was a tough task.
Emma worked with a strength coach and an osteopath and ran five days per week, strength training on one day and resting for one day.
‘There were good days and bad days,’ she says.
‘There were some days that I got out and I was really happy, I was enjoying it,’
‘Then other days I was like, ‘I really don’t want to do this,’ and it’s miserable weather, and I didn’t really enjoy it.
‘But I would say, every time I got home, I was really happy that I’d done it.’
Following the marathon, a scan revealed that everything was stable, which Emma says was ‘amazing’ considering all the work she’d put in to remaining healthy.
‘I have my next scan [next month] so fingers crossed for that,’ she says.
Emma has been raising funds for the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity – so far, she’s raised a whopping £115,000.
‘Without them, I wouldn’t be here,’ says Emma. ‘They really hold your hands during a very terrifying time, and actually make it so much less terrifying.
‘You feel quite safe with them, and it’s quite a happy place, and I’m really grateful for that.
‘I feel very relieved when I walk through the doors and I’m really lucky to have this incredible team.
‘Also, they are just doing so much to try and work on early diagnosis, so they’re implementing all the screening tests for various cancers, because more and more young people are getting these cancers.
Emma hopes that by staying fit, she will also become stronger and fitter than ever before, so that she can continue to fight the cancer.
‘When it gets to the point that I have to fight again, and we have to change treatment, or I have to do something new, and the cancer is coming back, I want to be ready,’ she says.
‘That’s giving me an incredible amount of hope and mental strength.
‘The endorphins of exercise are fantastic.’
Beyond that, Emma wants to encourage people with similar diagnoses to make the most of their lives.
‘I want to inspire people to grasp their lives and to try and live as positively as possible.
‘It’s so good for you to do that in every aspect, and it’s so much better for your treatment and for you to be happy and to use your time, however long that is, in the best way possible – because you never get it back.’
You can still donate to Emma’s fundraiser for the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity on Enthuse.
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