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Jennifer Vaughan feat Image 4b

Finding sunshine in the gloom – A blog

Jennifer Vaughan

THE START (it’s the best place to begin)

Jennifer Vaughan 1

April 2018 was the year I first heard the words possible kidney cancer uttered. How did I feel? Numb. It was beyond surreal; me, cancer? I never ever in my life expected to hear these words. When I was invited in for a consultation, I didn’t think I needed anyone to accompany me, I really was not expecting this news.’ So, it was just me, I was alone; just me, the consultant and nurse.

I was full of confidence that I would be alright, I didn’t have any symptoms or any of those warning signs like blood in my urine, night sweats, pain in my side and so on to say I had kidney cancer. Or any sort of cancer come to that! I sat there calmly listening to the consultant, and I remember saying to him “just tell me everything and I want to see the scan”.

I have never smoked, I am teetotal, I have a healthy diet and I exercise, but hearing those three words, I realised cancer does not discriminate. The consultant continued speaking and said, “we need to remove the kidney within four-weeks”

This all came about because I cut my finger and it would not heal despite being treated with two sets of antibiotics. Followed by blood test showing white cells low and my GP refers me to haematology. The haematology consultant thinks my GP and I are being over cautious but, I’m adamant something could be wrong if my GP has referred me here. The consultant says; “ok, we will do everything”. That everything included an ultrasound scan which showed I had an enlarged kidney, my bloods however came back normal. Next, a CT scan to find out why my kidney was enlarged. Result; cancer on my left kidney!

Me & my daughter Rhea

Persistence is why I am here to tell you this story and what living my life is like with cancer in me. Thanks to a cut on my finger, my kidney and the cancer has been removed and I’m told that further no treatment is required. I thought; ‘Yes, I am truly blessed! I have been given a second chance’.

I believed I was a survivor of cancer and continued living a happy life; smiling more, laughing more, more holidays, more socialising and enjoying precious times with my daughter and family. Nothing stressed me, not even the slightest little thing.

My first scan after the removal of my kidney was in January 2019 and the results were shared the day before my birthday. What a birthday present to be told there were multiple nodules on both lungs which could possibly be the return of the cancer. Tears started streaming down my face, I was crying uncontrollable tears!

I woke up on my birthday crying! Oh, I cried so much, and my heart was heavy with sadness. It was a bittersweet day for me, and I lived the

rest of 2019 undergoing treatments through an amazing medical team and trying to make cancer fit my life, not the other way around. Let’s not even get started on Covid…

I am going to skip going into the detail about treatments, hospital visits and side effects and state, the cancer has not changed me as a

person. But it has highlighted even more the things I already knew were important to me. It’s made me more resilient. I have been on a number of treatments, been hospitalised experiencing a near death situation, possibly due to one of the treatments. Now, I am on a treatment which has stabilised the cancer. Some of the awful side effects that come with the territory you have no choice but to see through and deal with.

Spending time with my daughter, my amazing family, and zillions of friends along with the laughter and happiness that surrounds me helps

Mum, Denise, me & Amanda

me to cope with the cancer living in me. I still have dreams and aspirations, I am still Jennifer, Jenny or Jen. I’m still the friend who people come to for advice and support, despite my situation and I still want to help others! I’m have remained working as a teacher and what a battle I had to prove I could still teach good lessons online due to shielding for a year and a half.

One cannot go back in time and change things; well not yet anyway! So, I look forward to the future with a positive mind set. Life goes on when cancer decides to join you but that doesn’t stop each day being a new day full of celebration, whether it’s a good or not so good day! Fact is, I’m alive.

My daughter Rhea, who graduated in 2021 has done me proud. Studying and keeping focused, growing into a strong, solid and incredibly supportive young woman and rising above this situation. Rhea never fails to put a smile on my face and warmth deep in my heart.

The important thing in life is to do the things you enjoy and never delay. It’s having a positive mind set, ready with a smile, wanting to laugh, show gratitude by helping others, good health mentally and physically and do not let the stress consume you. There’s always support out there for you in the form of family, friends and professionals. This is not an easy journey if you do it alone, physically or metaphorically speaking.

Jennifer Vaughan 4

Me & my brothers

Kidney Cancer UK have been amazing. I enjoy the Coffee, Cake & Chat meetings every month with others like myself. The team are supportive, answering our questions, raising awareness of treatment trails and anything else that can support our needs, they are there for us. I recently found my friends son Gabriel who is three-years old has Wilms tumour and I was able to direct her to Kidney Cancer UK. It was so heart breaking to hear that news, and at such a young age having to deal with cancer. I also support a charity group where I lead the sessions with women with different types of cancer who are stage 4 patients.

I plan to will be around for a very long time, I need to be here for Rhea, to watch her blossom, and spending precious time with her doing the things we enjoy together. And, we still have a bucket list of things to do!

My wishes and prayers are with you all no matter what part of this journey you are on. Keep talking, sharing your feelings, making new friends and living life with a smile on your face and the days will feel brighter.