By Alyce Collins
THIS DOTING FATHER-OF-ONE was told that a lump on his LUNG was merely a cyst, but months of speculation later turned out to be a rare form of SARCOMA so this once active outdoors enthusiast is making a BUCKET LIST to give his TWO-YEAR-OLD son lasting memories.
Climbing wall inspector Rob Metcalfe (30) from Lancashire, UK, began suffering chest pains and a cough in January 2018, for which his GP just prescribed antibiotics. However, the symptoms were still present by the end of March, coupled with vomiting and weight loss.
On May 3, 2018 Rob had an X-ray of his chest carried out which showed a small lung collapse and an unidentifiable object on his left lung. Within weeks, Rob contracted pneumonia and sepsis and was admitted to hospital where he received IV antibiotics followed by a CT scan of his lungs. Doctors then decided the lump was a cyst which they weren’t too concerned about.
In June, Rob underwent a lung surgery to fix his collapsed lung but by August, Rob’s chest pain had persisted, and further scans revealed that the object had doubled in size. A biopsy was done on the object, and on October 12, 2018, Rob was diagnosed with Primary pleuropulmonary synovial sarcoma, a rare soft tissue malignancy.
The diagnosis devastated Rob, who felt angry that the object wasn’t biopsied earlier. Rob began his 24 rounds of radiotherapy immediately, before having the tumour, two ribs, muscles and nerves all removed on January 30, 2019.
Rob began sharing his experience on Facebook and Instagram to highlight how cancer impacts an individual’s mental health. Unfortunately, on March 25, Rob was told he may have just 12 months left, depending on his body’s reaction to treatment.
Rob created a bucket list to make sure his wife, Beth, and son Caleb (2) have plenty of memories with him so that Caleb always remembers his late father’s love. The bucket list includes seeing the northern lights, renewing their wedding vows and taking family holidays in a Volkswagen camper van around the UK.
“In January 2018 I developed chest pain and a cough, so my GP prescribed me antibiotics for a chest infection,” said Rob.
“By the end of March, the cough was still there, and I got used to living with the chest pain, but I was vomiting most mornings and had started losing weight.
“I remember in May, my boss sent me home from work as he was sick of me throwing up and coughing at work. He also made me call the doctors that day to be seen.
“My GP sent me for an X-ray of my chest and the next day I received a call saying I had a small lung collapse in my left lung. I previously had four lung collapses and one surgery prior to this phone call. Although, the GP also said I had an unidentifiable object at the top of my left lung.
“I went back to hospital and doctors said this object may be scar tissue from surgery or fluid build-up from surgery I had in 2015. But by mid-May, I contracted pneumonia and sepsis and was treated with IV antibiotics and they kept me in to do a CT scan of the object. After discussing the results, they decided it was a cyst.
“In June I was admitted to hospital as my lung kept collapsing so they put a drain into my left lung cavity. I stayed there for five days, waiting to be transferred to Leeds St. James hospital. The doctors at Leeds wanted to see my images and they got radiologists to look at my CT scan and they also said it was a cyst.
“Two weeks later, at the end of June, I had another lung surgery to fix my lung collapse. After the surgery, I was told that the object was a cyst and would disappear on its own, so it was nothing to worry about.
“I spent the next two months recovering from surgery, but I still had chest pain, so, at the end of August, I was sent for an X-ray by my GP. The hospital told me to return the following day for another CT scan, and they found that the object had doubled in size.
“I had a biopsy taken in September and was told that it was nothing to worry about, but the sample was being sent to Leeds for the Sarcoma specialists to look at. In October I was diagnosed with Primary pleural synovial sarcoma.”
In March 2019, Rob received the sad news that his sarcoma is terminal, with doctors estimating he could live for three years at best, or 12 months at worst. Rob ha begun a campaign, #ItsNotACyst to encourage patients to speak up when they’re concerned, despite if their doctors say there’s nothing wrong.
Rob has had to try and explain to his son that he will be going to a ‘special place’ but he will always be by his side. To ensure that Caleb will always have photos of his father, Rob started making a bucket list of things he hopes to do with his family before the time comes.
“I underwent 24 sessions of radiotherapy and on January 30, 2019 I had my tumour removed along with two ribs, muscles and nerves,” said Rob.
“If your doctors say you have a cyst then ask them to investigate further. If they say they no because they know best, politely disagree and state that it’s your body. Don’t let them down play your worries, be strong and fight to get the right scans, it may be nothing but there’s always a chance it may be.
“I found out I was terminal in March 2019, so we made the decision that we needed to make memories as a family in the time we have left. So, we are using GoFundMe to raise money for our adventures.
“The aim is to do lots of holidays around the UK and take lots of photos for Caleb when he’s older. I would also like to drive to Norway and to Iceland to see the northern lights.
“Caleb is only two, so he doesn’t understand what’s going on. I have spoken to him about what’s going to happen. I told him that daddy is going to a special place and that I will always love him, and he will be by his side always.
“All I want is for Caleb to have pictures and memories of me so he knows how much I love him and that he can achieve anything he sets his mind to.
“I want my family to know I love them dearly and they are my world. I’m so scared for them and they don’t need to worry as I know I’m going to be okay. The short-term pain I’m going to go through is nothing to the heartache they will feel when I’m gone. And that will always be with them one way or another.
“My immediate family and my wife’s family have been absolutely amazing, and I couldn’t get through this without their support and the support of my closest friends.”