Life can change in an instant. From being a healthy and active person one day to being diagnosed with lung cancer the next, in August 2012 on his daughter’s 30th birthday, this is exactly what happened to Holywood man Gary Vint.
Gary, 62, had a cough for some time and was taking antibiotics as prescribed by his GP. He did not seem to be getting any better, so he was sent for an x-ray and endoscopy at the Ulster Hospital – that’s when he was diagnosed with lung cancer and Gary’s life changed forever.
“When you are fit and healthy and get told something like this, when you hear those words, it hits you like a steam train. It takes your breath away and you really have no time to think. It is a numbing experience.”
The cancer spread to Gary’s lymph nodes and by October the first of two courses of chemotherapy had begun. “The treatment is vigorous – it leaves you quite flabbergasted at the start. If I was more aware of the symptoms at an earlier stage, there is no doubt that I would have gone for a check-up sooner”.
Gary’s advice to the people of Northern Ireland is simple, “If you have any symptoms that you are not sure about, if you think that something is not quite right, have it checked out straight away.”
During his treatment, Gary understandably found it hard to cope with the changes in his life. He was put in touch with Karen, one of our counsellors in the Ards Community Hospital; “I am a positive thinker and have a really strong family supporting me as well as my wife, Margaret, who has been amazing. But Karen deals with this every day and was on hand to offer advice and answer my questions.
I dread to think how I would have got through it all if I didn’t know her. It is no exaggeration to say that meeting Karen changed everything and helped my family and I through my cancer journey.”
Gary soon realised that the counselling services provided by Cancer Focus NI were so vital to his recovery.
“There is so much information out there and I cannot highlight enough the impact that Cancer Focus NI’s services have made on my life. Whether it’s counselling, family support or campaigning for equal access to cancer treatment, the work Cancer Focus NI does in Northern Ireland is essential to helping local people affected by cancer.”
Gary is in a good place right now and is celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary in the weeks to come. Currently raising money by taking part in the Cancer Focus NI Marathon May challenge, Gary admits that he does not plan too far ahead; “My life is wonderful thanks to my Cancer Focus NI counsellor, Karen, and my loved ones around me especially my grandchildren who keep me busy. I take each day as it comes and hope that anyone affected by cancer that needs this type of support can benefit from it and gain as much as I have’.
Gary wanted to share his story with you today as he is passionate about helping us raise funds for our counselling services, operating in every cancer centre in Northern Ireland, so that someone with cancer or a loved one who is affected by cancer, will be able to receive the same support he did.
Text Gary16 £10 to 70070 or call Suzanne on 02890680745 to make a donation to help us support our counselling services.