Anyone that knows me will know that writing isn't my strong point, so I'll hand over to my wife Katherine!
December 2016, I noticed my husband was acting a little strange, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something wasn’t right. After a few weeks of asking him to go to the doctor, and him not getting round to it, I bundled him into the car and took him myself. At first they were reluctant to see him but I managed to convince the receptionist that it was urgent.
We were seen relatively quickly and the doctor took Lee’s blood pressure, it was dangerously high so we were kept at the surgery and made to retest every 5 minutes for the next 2 hours. He was put on tablets and sent away with an appointment for bloods etc to follow.
His blood test came back fine and he was told to just keep taking the tablets. I wasn’t particularly happy about this so made another appointment with our regular doctor in the new year, we attended and I explained all of the odd symptoms I’d noticed. Once she had listened she decided to refer Lee for a liver scan and more tests.
The scan date came through very quickly and we duly attended the appointment, not expecting anything bad. His liver looked fine according to the radiologist so we left the appointment feeling quite happy. What we didn’t expect, was a call 5 minutes later from our doctors asking us to come straight to the surgery.
Whilst looking at the images the radiologist had noticed something on Lee’s left kidney. This kickstarted a series of events, appointments in 4 different hospitals, tests, more xrays, nuclear scans, consultations, etc.
Finally, on 13th February 2017 we had the news we were dreading. It was cancer.
Lee was given two options for treatment;
A full kidney removal, done under key hole surgery
Partial removal, full open surgery
Whilst the full removal would be a much quicker recovery time, the consultant was concerned that there was a risk of cancer returning so the more kidney function that remained the better chance he had for the future. The scan showed that the tumour was just over 2cm and grade 1, early signs were good and it didn’t look like it had spread out of his kidneys.
Our consultant was pushing for the partial removal, as Lee was an ideal candidate for this type of pioneering surgery. At 46, Lee was relatively fit and not a typical kidney cancer patient. As there was no clue as to what caused his cancer there were concerns that it may return in the other kidney so we went with the surgeons advice, the operation was to take place on 30th May at MRI.
The following months waiting were awful. We have our own business and it was approaching our busiest time. All we wanted to do was hibernate until it was all over, but this wasn’t an option. Family, friends and our amazing staff helped wherever possible and we got through it.
We knew that there was a risk that the cancer could spread so were anxious about the wait but were assured we were doing the right thing. The pre op was booked for the week before and we attended MRI, fighting our way through the press stationed there after the awful events at the Manchester Arena the previous week. The hospital was clearly at breaking point and eventually, 3 days before his op we received the call to say his operation had been cancelled. All critical care and high dependency beds were taken and there was nothing that could be done. Incredible to think of the the knock on effect that bomb caused.
This news was a terrible blow to us all, not least Lee who had, until then been putting a brave face on. Again, family, friends and our staff got us through and kept us sane.
After a month of not hearing anything I started making calls to find out what was happening. Unbelievably, he had been put to the bottom of the pile on a non urgent basis! A few days of angry phone calls from me and we eventually got a new date set, 17th July.
The operation went well and after a week Lee was allowed home, still very poorly and needing round the clock treatment. The surgeon was happy that all the margins were clear and that the cancer had been removed. Later, histology showed the tumour over doubled in size between February and the removal in July, it was also graded at stage 3. Scary to think what may have been had we not pushed for a new operation date.
Lee continued to get stronger, we were in and out of hospital for more tests, scans etc. The weeks turned into months and finally on the 7th February 2018 we had the best news, the latest nuclear scan showed no signs of cancer. He will be scanned every 3 months moving forward but we hope it’s gone for good. The consultant said looking at the MRI scan he would say there is a 95% chance it won’t return.
His scar is an impressive 14 inches and he’s been left with a rugby ball shaped bulge where they cut through his muscle, but he’s cancer free which is all that matters.
So, there were have it!
To celebrate this great news and to help Lee get back to his former, fit self, he has signed up to do the Great North Run. He will be running on behalf of the Graham Wylie Foundation and we’d like to raise as much as we can for them.