An Unfashionable Cancer

Less than 3 weeks before I collapsed and was diagnosed with kidney cancer, this feature in the local paper Tamworth Herald was published. Looking back at the photographs now it’s strange to think I had a tumor growing inside my kidney. Only 2 months prior to that I had exhibited my designs at Clothes Show Live in Birmingham, again with no idea I was unwell let alone had cancer. A further 6 years before this my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and I had supported her through the treatments and thankfully on to a full recovery. I had not once stopped to think I was at risk from cancer myself, it never crossed my mind to have any check ups, I didn’t even know my doctors name. However, 1 week before my collapse I found a lump in my armpit, just a small swelling but it made me stop and think and I booked to see a nurse for a check up. At the health centre a nurse examined me and immediately referred me through to a doctor, not what I was expecting. The doctor examined me but by then the lump was not very big, the swelling had gone down. He said it was probably glands and most likely a symptom of something else, little did we know. Since diagnosis and surgery I have of course had various check ups and examinations and questions about my medical history have been asked. My Dad suffered with kidney problems and sadly died young at 41 from a heart attack. No link to his kidney problems were made though and neither was my Mom’s breast cancer connected. No reason for my cancer was given, in fact when I asked how long it had been there the consultant answered, ‘how far can a horse run’? If you think that’s a vague answer try this, when I asked why I may have kidney cancer specifically the consultant said, ‘ask yourself why children have cancer, what have they done’? I  think the point being made was that there is no hard and fast answer only statistics. Cancer itself is a lottery (another quote from my consultant) it can strike at random and unfortunately this time it was me. The statistics show that kidney cancer is the 8th most common of the diseases and then it affects significantly more men than women. High on the list of risks are drinking, smoking, obesity and high blood pressure – none of which really concerned me (ok so my drink index was occasionally too high…) So there it was, I had a relatively uncommon cancer and didn’t match the statistics. I was running an alternative fashion company that didn’t follow the trends. My business was growing, so was the cancer and both were about to stop abruptly. I still ask myself why, how it came to be there, how long for, was I ill and didn’t notice, did it hurt and I carried on and to myself – will it ever come back. Another quote from my consultant, ‘you can either worry about it night and day wondering if there’s still some there or you can carry on as normal and hope it’s all gone’. The last but one sentence in my local paper business feature should help me decide; ‘I make clothes that are neither in nor out of fashion but take their inspiration from music and we intend to be around for a long while yet’. Reckon I will.

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