'I survived kidney cancer' A Story By NICK OWEN


TV journalist Nicholas Owen was one of the 6,000 Britons diagnosed with kidney cancer last year.
Here, he tells femail.co.uk how he coped. Nicholas lives in Surrey with his wife Brenda and has four children.
“Last year, at the age of 55, I felt fit as a flea. I was a trim 12 stone and working hard in my job as ITV’s lunchtime news reporter. Life was busy, just how I liked it.
In all my years as a journalist and broadcaster I had hardly taken a single sick day and so to be diagnosed, out of the blue, with cancer was a terrible shock.
It was July 2002 when my wife persuaded me to see a doctor friend of ours to check out my stomach. I had been complaining about my grumbling guts for a while and she was fed up with listening to me.
We both thought it was just a symptom of getting older, but I went along privately to see Dr Eoghan Owen at Gatwick Park Hospital in Surrey.
He agreed that it was very common for men my age to have problems with their digestion but suggested I had an ultrasound scan of the area around my abdomen anyway.
I had no concerns. As far as I could tell, the scan was just a precaution. I wasn’t expecting it to show anything.
My confidence was shattered when I was told by the radiologist that I had a growth on my right kidney. I realised that this must be serious but couldn’t understand how I hadn’t had more symptoms.
A day later I sat with my wife in the specialist’s office waiting for a full diagnosis. Melvin Jennings, the consultant urologist, calmly confirmed that there was a 1-2cm growth on my kidney and that the whole kidney would have to be taken out immediately.
He then said: “There is never a definitive cure for cancer.” It was the first time the dreaded word cancer was used. Even though I knew it was cancer before, to hear the word was surreal. I almost felt like looking around the room to see who he was talking about. It couldn’t be me. I looked over at my wife, who was as stunned as I was.
When the doctor was talking to me, I felt like I had been wrapped in a cocoon. It was as if I was removed from the situation and had a calm sense of “let’s get on with it”. I think nature has a fantastic way of helping us to cope in these moments.
The specialist then told me the good news: they had caught it early. The growth was still very small, which was why I hadn’t experienced any real symptoms.
Most people with cancer in the kidneys have urine in the blood or feel very tired. I hadn’t felt anything like this.
A week later, on Monday July 12, I returned to the hospital to have my right kidney removed by a procedure called a nephrectomy. It was the only time I had stayed in hospital apart from my birth.
It was a major operation that lasted three hours. The whole of my right kidney was removed, rather than just the tumour, because doctors want to be certain that no cancer cells are left behind to cause problems and the kidney has many blood vessels – and bleeds a lot when it’s cut.
I never had any doubt that removing the whole kidney was the right procedure for me. Even though we all need our kidneys to filter the impurities out of the blood and divert them into urine, I had been told it is possible to live a completely normal life with just one kidney.
In fact as little as a third of a kidney is enough to do the job and many people live life minus one kidney without even knowing.
I woke up a couple hours later on the ward and felt very sick. I think it was the effect of the anaesthetic, which really knocked me out. There was no pain but I was left with a scar that was about 12cm long from my tummy button to my right-hand side.
The doctors immediately told me that my operation had been a huge success. The growth had been very small and appeared to be contained to the kidney.
It didn’t look like it had spread anywhere and the prognosis was good but I would have to return for check-ups. It was a massive relief. I had been incredibly lucky in having it detected so early.
Obesity and smoking are two factors linked to kidney cancer, but neither applied to me. I was a non-smoker and had always been slim.
The reality is I probably got cancer because of something in my genes, not necessarily even inherited. The doctors couldn’t be any more specific.
Because kidney cancer affects only 6,000 people a year, very little is known about it. I was lucky that I had caught it early but was told that if it had spread, kidney cancer isn’t susceptible to chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
There is research being carried out into what can be done but it is difficult to treat once it is out of control.
Now, over a year later, I feel in full health and am now a patron of Kidney Cancer UK, which involves visiting hospitals and talking to patients – sometimes I feel a bit like Prince Charles.
I cannot emphasise enough the need to react quickly to symptoms. It is very clear cut. Men, if you have blood in your urine, go to the doctor immediately.
Women, if you see blood in your urine twice, go to the doctor. There is a 95 per cent survival rate if kidney cancer is caught early but nevertheless it is the fastest growing cancer for women and is the eighth most prevalent cancer for men.
A year on, I have the all-clear and just have to go for check-ups every six months, but there are no guarantees when it comes to cancer. I just live every day to the full and keep doing the things I love to do.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here