Jodee Mundy may have been a first-time mum-to-be, but soon after falling pregnant, the award-winning artist from Melbourne knew something was wrong.
“Throughout my pregnancy I had quite severe pain in my ribcage and was short of breath,” the 44-year-old told 9News.com.au.
“People would say, ‘oh it’s babies’ feet, or ‘pregnancy takes your breath away.
“I thought to myself, if this is so bad, why am I the only one being such a weakling?”
Her doctors told her she had probably just developed asthma.
But at 35 weeks she was so breathless that her GP sent her to the emergency room.
There, a simple X-ray revealed that she had four liters of fluid in one of her lungs.
The next day, further tests finally gave him a diagnosis.
The moment she found out was “like a bad dream”.
“I didn’t feel real,” Mundy said.
“It was like having a baby – how bad is it? Am I going to live?”
Mundy had to spend the following week in hospital awaiting a caesarean section before further tests could be carried out.
It was the worst week of her life.
Fortunately, little Evie, who is now two and a half years old, was born healthy.
But Mundy’s happiness was soon shattered.
She was told the cancer was classified as stage 4 and had spread throughout her body. It had invaded his brain, spine and liver.
It was a type of lung cancer called non-small cell, so we gave him some hope.
“They said if you have this type there is a very good treatment,” she said.
The Melbourne mum started with a pioneering targeted therapy, which comes as a single pill a day.
And she’s been cancer-free for two years.
She even received an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2020 for her services to the performing arts.
But the impact of cancer remains. She only has 75% breathing capacity, which she described as “like wearing a corset”.
The acclaimed entertainer also knows that cancer is very likely to return. She was told that the treatment could stop working at any time.
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 very beautiful, bubbly little girl and I hope to see her live to be 50,” she said.
“I don’t know how long I will stay here.
“It’s a very real reality that I live with every day.”
Like all lung cancer patients, she also faces the stigma of the disease, which can affect non-smokers as well as smokers.
She urged anyone with unusual symptoms to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Mundy recalled a bad cough and coughing up blood on one occasion that could have been an early sign of his cancer.
“If you have these symptoms and it seems strange to you and you say to yourself, ‘It can’t just be asthma or a cough, you can go to the emergency room 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 shortness of breath should never be ignored. Don’t put a visit to your GP on the back burner.”
Lung cancer kills more Australians than any other cancer – nearly 9,000 people a year – more than breast, prostate and ovarian cancers combined.
But it receives relatively low funding.
As a result, while breast cancer survival rates have climbed to 90%, only 20% of lung cancer patients survive longer than five years.
In 2019, lung cancer was the most common cause of cancer death in Australia, and is expected to remain the biggest cancer killer, according to Cancer Australia.
Last year, 13,810 people were diagnosed in Australia.
And 83% of those patients were diagnosed at a late stage, according to the Lung Foundation.
According to the Foundation, one in three women and one in 10 men diagnosed have never smoked.
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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 that lasts longer than three weeks
- Changes to an existing cough
- Shortness of breath
- coughing up blood
- Chest pain
- Hoarseness of voice.
Contact journalist Sarah Swain: Sswain@nine.com.au