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Jodee Mundy might have been a first time mum-to be, but soon after becoming pregnant, the award-winning Melbourne artist knew something was wrong.
“During my whole pregnancy I had quite severe pain in my rib cage, and I was breathless,” the 44-year-old told 9News.com.au.
“People said, ‘oh it’s the babies’ feet, or ‘pregnancy makes you so breathless’.
“I felt, if it’s this bad, why am I the only one being such a wuss?”
Her doctors told her she’d probably just developed asthma.
But at 35 weeks, she was so out of breath, her GP sent her to the emergency department.
There, a simple X-ray discovered she had four litres of fluid in one of her lungs.
The next day, more tests finally gave her a diagnosis.
The moment she found out was “like a bad dream”.
“I didn’t feel real,” Mundy said.
“It was like, I’m having a baby – how bad is it? Am I going to live?”
Mundy had to spend the next week in hospital waiting for a C-section before more tests could be done.
She it was the worst week of her life.
Luckily, baby Evie, now two and a half, was born healthy.
But Mundy’s happiness was soon shattered.
She was told the cancer was classed as Stage 4 and had spread around her body. It had invaded her brain, spine and liver.
It was a type of lung cancer called non-small cell so she she was given a bit of hope.
“They said if you have this type there is really good treatment,” she said.
The Melbourne mum started started on pioneering targeted therapy, which comes in the form of just one tablet a day.
And she has been clear of cancer for the past two years.
She was even awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2020 for her services to the performing arts.
But the impact of the cancer remains. She has only 75 per cent breathing capacity, which she has described as “like wearing a corset”.
The acclaimed artist also knows it is very likely the cancer will come back. She has been told the treatment could stop working at anytime.
But for now, she has been able to return to work as a festival director, and enjoy life with Evie, and her partner.
“She’s amazing. She’s a really beautiful bubbly little girl and I hope to see her live until she’s 50,” she said.
“I don’t know how long I’ll be here.
“It’s a very real reality I live with everyday.”
Like all lung cancer patients, she also faces the stigma of the disease, which can affect non-smokers as well as smokers.
She has urged anyone with unusual symptoms to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Mundy recalled a bad cough and coughing up blood on one occasion that could have been an early sign of her cancer.
“If you have these symptoms and it feels strange and you think to yourself, ‘it can’t just be asthma, or a cough, you can go to emergency and ask for an X-ray, or go to your GP and ask. Don’t ignore it.”
See a GP if you have symptoms, charity says
“Lung disease and lung cancer are often diagnosed at a late stage when there are fewer treatment options available, and survival rates are significantly reduced,” Morgan said.
“A persistent cough or breathlessness should never be ignored. Don’t put a visit to your GP on the backburner.”
Lung cancer kills more Australians than any other cancer – almost 9000 people a year- which is more than breast, prostate and ovarian cancers combined.
But it gets a relatively small amount of funding.
As a result, while breast cancer survival rates have soared to 90 per cent, just 20 per cent of lung cancer patients survive more than five years.
In 2019, lung cancer was the most common cause of cancer death in Australia, and it’s expected to remain the biggest cancer killer, Cancer Australia says.
Last year, 13,810 people were diagnosed in Australia.
And 83 per cent of those patients were diagnosed at a late stage, the Lung Foundation says.
One in three women, and one in 10 men, diagnosed have never smoked, according to the Foundation.
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What are the symptoms of lung cancer or disease?
There are a number of symptoms attributed to lung cancer or disease.
- A persistent or unexplained cough which lasts more than three weeks
- Changes to an existing cough
- Coughing up blood
- Weight loss
- Chest pain
- Voice hoarseness.
Contact journalist Sarah Swain: [email protected]