Personal Trainer Who Thought She Had COVID Terminally Ill With Lung Cancer

A 36-year-old woman who thought her persistent cough was COVID was later diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

Jenny Weller, a personal trainer from Burgess Hill in the U.K., first developed a dry cough in November 2019.

She initially thought it was a seasonal cold, but when the pandemic took hold, she assumed she was infected with COVID.

"No one was really going to the doctor with just a cough at that point," she told PA Real Life. "It was just a really dry irritating cough and it didn't really affect me unless I exerted myself."

Weller first sought help in the summer of 2020, nearly a year later, when her condition worsened.

Her cough hadn't subsided, and she had also started to experience severe headaches, weight loss as a consequence of unexplained vomiting, and had developed a lump on her neck.

Her doctor referred her for an appointment with an ear, nose and throat specialist, but in the six weeks leading up to the appointment Weller's health deteriorated further, and on August 31, 2020, she collapsed and had a seizure.

"I'd just taken the dog for a walk and I felt absolutely exhausted and crashed out on the sofa," she said.

"I tried to go upstairs to go to the bathroom, but I passed out, fell downstairs and collapsed at the bottom. I'm not really sure how long I was there. I then tried to go and be sick in the kitchen, but I collapsed again."

Subsequent scans revealed a 35mm tumor in her lung, five additional tumors in her brain, one in her neck, and one in her pelvis.

Weller, who does not smoke or drink alcohol, was diagnosed with ALK-positive lung cancer in September 2020.

ALK-positive cancer is a type of cancer that is caused by a mutation of the gene Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK), though it isn't clear why this mutation happens.

The ALK Positive foundation explains on its website: "There is no known correlation of ALK-positive lung cancer with any environmental toxins, including smoking, second-hand smoke, asbestos, and air pollution."

According to the organization, around 90 percent of people suffering from ALK-positive cancer are only diagnosed when the cancer has already spread to other parts of their body.

Weller underwent surgery, including the removal of a golf ball-sized tumor from her brain, and radiotherapy treatment, but was told in February 2021 that her cancer was incurable.

"I thought I had five or six years to live, but then she said the expectancy was one to two years and I was already six months in," Weller said.

She believes that her outlook may have been better if she had known about ALK positive cancer before her diagnosis, and if she had received medical help earlier.

According to National Cancer Institute research, millions of people in the U.S. missed out on key cancer screenings because COVID took priority, which may result in thousands of additional deaths in the coming months and years.

Weller is now dedicating her time to raising awareness of ALK positive cancer.

She is doing so through a series of vigorous activities, including wild swimming, abseiling, zip lining, mountain climbing, and a cycle ride spanning the length of the island of Britain, using the hashtag #wellerfest. She is aiming to raise £30,000.

woman running personal trainer
A stock image shows a woman running. Jenny Weller, a personal trainer, delayed seeking medical attention because her initial symptoms aligned with those of a mild COVID-19 infection, which "no one was really going to the doctor with." Getty Images