"Seeking a second opinion saved my life"

When Ruth was told that the treatment she was undergoing for kidney cancer was having a reduced effect and that the tumour in her kidney was inoperable, she decided to seek a second opinion to see if any other treatment options could be explored.

It was at these crossroads that she spoke with Mr Rajesh Nair, Consultant Urological Surgeon at London Bridge Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK, who was able to perform surgery on the previously deemed inoperable tumour. Here Ruth shares her story.

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Ruth, a 56-year-old mother of two from Cheltenham, first became worried about her health back in 2019 when, completely out of the blue, she lost the use of her right hand and arm and was unable to drive to the school where she worked at as a teacher. After seeking medical help and undergoing lots of tests, she was given a devastating diagnosis – that she had secondary brain cancer which had metastasised from kidney cancer. She underwent surgery to remove the brain tumour and then immunotherapy to treat the kidney cancer.

Devastating diagnosis

Whilst Ruth’s brain surgery was successful, two years after first starting immunotherapy, Ruth was told that the treatment was having a reduced effect on the tumour in her kidney, and her consultant advised that nothing more clinically could be done besides palliative care, as the tumour was now deemed inoperable.

Ruth was inconsolable after receiving this diagnosis. However, she was not ready to give up, and instead decided to seek a second opinion on her treatment options.

Hearing initially that nothing else could be done and that my tumour was inoperable was completely devastating. I felt so scared and overwhelmed, but my sister – who has been a huge support through all of this – suggested that I seek a second opinion.

Reaching the one-year milestone

“I contacted Kidney Cancer UK and they put me in touch with Urological Surgeon Mr Rajesh Nair. I spoke to Mr Nair over the phone for 40 minutes, he had already seen all of my scan results and said that yes, he would be able to operate. I immediately felt optimistic about my future.”

Mr Nair made Ruth aware of the risks that her surgery posed; because her tumour was aggressive, he would need to remove her left kidney, and she may need to have part of her bowel removed and be fitted with a stoma if the cancer had spread. Ruth fully understood the risks and there and then chose to self-fund her care at London Bridge Hospital.

Ruth underwent the operation, which was a complete success. The tumour was removed without having to remove any of Ruth’s bowel, which meant she wouldn’t need a stoma bag. Following her surgery, the area was then biopsied to ensure that all of the cancer was removed, which to Ruth’s relief, it was.

On the care that she received in hospital, Ruth added: “My husband Colin and I were so nervous ahead of the op, as were my children and family, but Mr Nair was amazing – the second I was out of theatre he called my husband and told him how it went, and then came to the ward with me and when I came around he put the phone to my ear so me and my husband could chat. I don’t remember a word he said because of the anaesthetic but my husband found it very comforting!”

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Feeling optimistic about her future

After spending six days in hospital, Ruth returned home and recovered well. Now, a few months on from her surgery, Ruth commented: “I class myself as very lucky, I am now cancer clear – I prefer to say that rather than cancer free as the cancer could return. However, after having my final consultation with Mr Nair earlier this year I feel optimistic about the future.”

On her advice to others, Ruth concluded: “I would encourage anyone who was in my situation or something similar to seek a second opinion. With most things in life, you do your research and don’t necessarily pick the first option that is available to you – medical care shouldn’t be an exception. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Mr Nair and his willingness to investigate all of the treatment options – I am so incredibly grateful.” 

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