Prior to my cancer diagnosis I was busy, working fulltime in an Opticians and raising two teenage children Rhea and Darragh. I was big into fitness and would be in the gym at least three times a week and running or walking most evenings. I was young, fit and healthy. I was also a non-smoker, which is the first question I get asked when I reveal the type of cancer I unfortunately got.

I became unwell after my second Covid 19 vaccine in July of 2021. Breathlessness, dizziness, caught for breath etc. but I put it down to the side effects of the vaccine. By late August nothing had improved so I went to my G.P. who checked me over and couldn’t find any reason why I was feeling like I was. On September 10th I was finishing up for the weekend in work when I became very faint and unwell.

I rang my GP again and was told to head to the hospital immediately. After a series of tests and repeated tests the doctor came into discharge me after 5 days and said they had found a nodule on my right lung, but it was most probably from an old infection.

Cancer was never mentioned.

I was discharged but sent for further investigation to CUH. Following a few weeks of tests, I was given an appointment to come back 10 days after my 40th birthday in November. At this stage I had been signed off work and I was neither improving nor deteriorating. I went to the hospital alone which was 40 minutes from my home.

Friday November 12th, 2021, will always be the day I died and was reborn.
It was the day I went into a room alone and was given the news I had Lung Cancer.

Things moved pretty quickly after that for me. Once I had my loved ones told I went straight to ‘doctor google’ and I was not prepared for the statistics surrounding Lung Cancer. 15% chance of survival past 5 years. It felt almost like an expiration date, like I was milk that only had a limited amount of time before I was discarded.

Support surrounding Lung Cancer was also in very short supply. There wasn’t anyone I could speak to about it because there aren’t that many survivors of lung cancer and if there are they weren’t on any online platforms I was searching for.

I was given a nurse from the Orchid Clinic in CUH and was able to phone her directly on my bad days or to find out what happened next.

Surgery was the only option open to me. I knew then I had a chance, a chance to beat this horrible invisible monster. I was told I would be given only days’ notice of when the surgery would be, it was basically bed dependent.

I quickly did my Christmas shopping, mostly online just in case, got all the new pjs for the hospital etc. and gave the house a good clean….

I got the call on December 12th and was admitted December 14th for surgery the following day. That’s when the enormity of what was happening hit me. I sat in my room the day before the surgery and cried silent tears, begging God to get me through the surgery.

I had a right lobectomy, and some lymph nodes of the surrounding areas were removed.

Thankfully he did, I spent some time in the ICU after due to a few hiccups, but I made it. I was right to do the Christmas shopping as I spent Christmas Day and a few more after that in hospital. That was heartbreaking, being away from everyone and being alone.

Recovery from the surgery was horrendous and very slow, mentally and physically it was an ordeal but, one I got through because of the support I received from family and friends and himself….

How am I now?

Right now, I wish I knew nothing of cancer or lung cancer. It was a subject I quickly and necessarily had to master. I still get upset that it happened to me, but I know cancer does not discriminate. I couldn’t have been healthier, and it still got its tentacles around my lung. But other than that, I’m good, still have dysfunctional breathing so stairs are still a problem, and the breathlessness and dizziness are frequent visitors but I’m alive and to me that’s all that matters.

My Hope For Research


I would love it if Lung Cancer got as much recognition and funding as other cancers such as Breast Cancer. I feel the stigma that surrounds Lung Cancer is partly to blame for this, it’s almost shadow banned because of its stigma and association with cigarettes. We need to change the perception, rewrite the narrative and educate people surrounding Lung Cancer. It is no longer a smokers or old persons disease. I didn’t fit the stereotypical candidate of this cancer, yet I was afflicted with it. Lung Cancer is the biggest single cause of cancer deaths worldwide, causing more deaths than breast and prostate combined. Lung cancer kills someone every 18 seconds worldwide.

Public Support

Breakthrough Cancer Research is leading the way to strive and find A Cure for 100% of Cancers. They are the very lifeline all cancer patients depend on for new innovative treatments and cures. They are possibly the people who will keep me alive. They give me hope of a cure.



Be your own advocate. You know your body better than any doctor or G.P. If you feel something’s not right get checked out. Do not be dismissed because you don’t fit the criteria, advocate for your life.  You may just save it.

The most common symptoms of Lung Cancer are:

Persistent Cough, Breathlessness, Unexplained Weight Loss, Coughing up blood, Shoulder/Back pain, Ongoing Chest infections.

Gillian Ryan.