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Car crash 'saved my life' after lung cancer spotted in x-ray
2:15pm Tuesday 10th December 2013 in News
THERE are not many people who would view an accident as a blessing, but one ex-policeman from Falmouth may owe his life to an icy day in February when he ended up trapped in his written off car following a collision.
Peter Telling and his wife of more than 50 years, Wendy, were on the outskirts of Helston on February 11 when they were involved in the accident with a van which left Peter unable to get out of his vehicle. Both were taken to the Emergency Department at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro.
After initial concerns that Peter had broken his neck were ruled out with scans, the ED team turned their attention to Peter’s chest where he was complaining of pain. An x-ray showed he had broken his sternum but it also showed something unexpected – a shadow on his lung.
After ten hours in ED, Peter was discharged home. He remembers: “There is no treatment for a broken sternum, only rest. They told me they’d send my x-rays to my doctor and I should give him a call in a couple of days. In fact he called me.”
Peter’s GP had arranged for a scan at West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance a few days later and just a week after that he had an appointment to see a cancer specialist at Treliske. “I was told I had cancer on my right lung. It was a shock because I had had no symptoms. There was no weight loss, no cough, no shortness of breath and I used to go for long walks every day. I had once smoked but not for 30 years.
“I had been a policeman for 30 years with Cornwall Constabulary working in Liskeard, Looe, Fowey, Mawnan Smith and Falmouth so I hadn’t done industrial work which could have put me in contact with high risk |substances,” said Peter.
The 73-year-old was told his cancer was unusual in that it was at the top of the lung and this meant surgery wasn’t an option. He was sent for a lung biopsy and then met clinical oncology consultant Toby Talbot.
Peter said: “Toby is an absolutely fantastic man. He was quite confident he could do something for me which was very reassuring to hear because you do think ‘that’s it’ when you hear the big C word.”
Peter was to be the first lung cancer patient to use the Trust’s new TrueBeam Linear Accelerator or Linac as it is known. The technology allows doctors to deliver radiotherapy with unparalleled speed and accuracy and ensures patients receive state-of-the-art treatment for their cancer.
The plan was for Peter to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy at the same time. Before his treatment started, Peter was sent to Plymouth for a scan to see if the cancer was |elsewhere in his body. Fortunately it had not spread.
“As soon as I returned from Plymouth there was a phone call telling me to come into Lowen Ward to start my treatment. It did all hit me then.”
Peter admits his first all day chemotherapy session was a bit |daunting and this was followed a week later by a shorter half day session. “During the third session I was taken down for radiotherapy for the first time. Then it was 33 continuous days of radiotherapy on the new machine.”
Peter finished his treatment in June and after a follow-up has been told that so far things are looking good and the cancer has shrunk considerably. “I feel quite well and fortunately we have been told my cancer is the slow growing kind which is good. I feel very fortunate.”
Peter, a father of two and grandfather of six, has had tremendous support from all his family. “I’m also lucky because my daughter-in-law Liz is a radiographer at the hospital. I said I wanted her to be told everything about my treatment and that meant she was able to explain things to us more.”
Peter is keen to praise the care and treatment he received. “Until it |happens to you, you just don’t realise the numbers of people being treated for cancer in Cornwall.
“The staff were just brilliant. They are amazing people.”
Looking back, Peter’s wife Wendy said: “It was the best accident we have ever had. My cousin told Peter that when he is better he should have a party and invite the van driver to thank him!”
Toby Talbot, clinical oncology consultant, said: “Peter was indeed lucky to have his lung cancer picked up when potentially curative treatment could be given. Most lung cancer patients have progressed too far by the time they seek treatment.”
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