This time last year I never thought I’d see another birthday.

It was November 18, 2019 – the day after I blew the candles out on a Caterpillar cake – and I was checking in to the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank.

The surgeon I was assigned to had planned to remove part of my left lung – inside it was the malignant tumour that had been identified from a PET-scan nine weeks earlier.

Cardio-thoracic surgeons, I was told, prefer to operate much earlier than this but I was just glad it was being done and that surgery offered a potential life-saving solution. I wasn’t allowing any negative thoughts to grow in my mind as I mentally prepared myself for what was described on my Google research as a “drastic surgical procedure”.

I didn’t even flinch when I was told that the surgeon who was to operate on me had broken a bone in his hand and wasn’t now available.

At the 11th hour a different surgeon agreed to take me on and on the eve of the operation he came to my bedside and said he thought it best that – instead of removing one of the two lobes that make up the left lung, he would be better removing the whole lung.

He took his time to explain why and even drew in pencil a diagram showing why he wanted to proceed with a full pneumonectomy rather than the original lobectomy. My wife Laura and I listened and watched intently as he described what he would do the next morning.

He’d go in through the back using keyhole surgery and remove the entire left lung which would also give him a better chance of removing lymph nodes that could also be infected with cancer.

He described how a lung was like a balloon and that once deflated would be “squishy” and able to be pulled out through the hole in my back. He said a lot more too … but my natural brain defence mechanism of not listening to another word had kicked in and I simply put my faith in this self-assured and quietly spoken surgeon.

The surgical team worked on my body for more than seven hours the next day. The operation was a success but soon after I was told that some cancer cells had penetrated beyond the lung wall prior to surgery and that the only option left was chemotherapy and immunotherapy to slow down and try to control its spread.

Last week I got a CAT-scan and on Monday my Beatson consultant told me the treatment was continuing to hold things at bay… on Tuesday I celebrated the birthday I thought I’d never see and now I am looking forward to Christmas.

No matter how grim things can seem there is always hope.

Ally McLaws is managing director of the McLaws Consultancy, specialist in business marketing and reputation management. All back copies of this column are available at