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Cancer hiding behind cancer

by | Aug 3, 2020 | Personal Stories - Blogs

Darren Roberts was initially diagnosed with bladder cancer only to find it was a metastasis from kidney cancer; cancer hiding behind cancer. This is his journey.

Like everyone who gets cancer I thought it would never happen to me but, on September 20th 2016, after peeing blood at work, I was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Right then my life changed forever, and I joined the most unfortunate members club in the world.

DR Darren in a hospitalTen days later, whilst having surgery to remove the tumour from my bladder, I was told the shattering news that a second tumour had been found on my kidney. It was 9cms and wrapped around the organ like a snug onesie. Frighteningly I knew nothing about it. The only signs I noticed in hindsight was the occasional lower back ache which I thought was a running niggle or down to the fact I was just getting older. The bladder cancer and subsequent CT Scan had unearthed a deadly secret that my body was hiding and if I hadn’t discovered it when I did, I would most certainly be dead now. Ironically, cancer saved my life. I had the kidney out in the November of 2016 and in March 2017 went into remission and that was it, nothing for over a year.
Darren with Betsy
I started getting sciatic pain in November 2018 which again I thought was a running niggle. I’m not the most elegant of runners and with incredibly flat feet I used to succumb to small irritating injuries, but this was no injury. In Feb 2019 I had an MRI Scan of the lower back and a tumour was found on my spine and as quick as that I was back on the cancer rollercoaster. Now fully under the care of The Royal Marsden I was fast tracked into radiotherapy where I was treated, and the tumour was blasted into submission. This treatment left its legacy and my running days were over; replaced by daily pain and discomfort. A couple of days after treatment finished my beautiful dog Betsy died, and my heart broke. I started to wonder what I had done that was so bad in my life that all of this was now happening to me.
Darren hiding behind a face mask having treatmentAfter a routine CT Scan in March 2019, I was diagnosed with metastatic kidney cancer and the culprit was the kidney that was removed. I kind of knew that this was what was happening as a person can’t have this much bad luck and get away with it. I was treated with immunotherapy drugs which are the best form of attack for metastatic cancer- if indeed my body could take it. I, of course, reacted badly to the drugs and after one cycle I contracted aspect meningitis, this was probably the most frightened I had ever been in my life. I went from very OK, physically, to very sick, literally overnight. I really did think that was it.
I survived (obviously) though my cancer began to spread into my chest, a CT Scan conducted in April 2019 gave me the devastating news that I did indeed have a progressive kidney disease and, it was incurable.
It is a funny thing being told such life changing news, it felt like the pressure had been taken off my shoulders. I didn’t crumble or regress into a black hole, I did the opposite. I embraced the new treatment and with it the new white hair, the constant diarrhoea, the crippling pain in my feet, the lethargy, bleeding gums, nose bleeds, loss of taste and generally feeling terrible (all  these brought on through side-effects of the drugs), I said ‘stuff it’. I must just move forward and live day-by-day and enjoy every day to the full.
DR Darren in front of a wall with a hat on
Don’t get me wrong, I wake up most mornings and want to shut myself away from the world, but I’m surrounded by so much love and positive energy that I simply can’t and won’t. I now know it will be cancer that will end my life if I’m not caught up in a freak accident or other unfortunate health disaster. But until that day I will fight on, put my faith and trust in the clever people; the amazing support I get from Kidney Cancer UK, all the wonderful nurses and the amazing kind people at The Royal Marsden Chelsea who without them my story would have ended by now and the universe would be a Darren down. How awful would that be!
Stay safe, stay positive, be happy.

Please note: We are sharing a link to Darren’s excellent personal kidney cancer blog
with a warning that it contains adult language some may find offensive.
Click HERE to proceed.

<a href="" target="_self">Malcolm Packer</a>

Malcolm Packer

Malcolm is Chief Executive Officer at Kidney Cancer UK and Kidney Cancer Scotland and has worked with the charity in various capacities for over 15 years.