Fast forward the years, I did well in my GCSE’s and went on to do A levels at Greenhead College. It’s difficult to say how much I was influenced by my own medical history but I decided I wanted to be a doctor.
Hi, my name is Elizabeth Morgan and this is a joint piece by me and my dedicated Mum, who has helped me fill in the parts I cannot fully remember. I was diagnosed with a stage 4 Wilm’s tumour of the kidney just before my fourth birthday and start at primary school (July 1998).
It all began early in the year with me going to the toilet and noticing my wee was black. I called Mum and she had a look in the toilet and made an appointment to see our GP. He asked me if I had any pain when I went to the toilet which I didn’t. I was given a sample pot and the doctor said there was blood in my urine, but no infection. He said if it reoccurred Mum was to phone and let him know. It happened again a week later and she called and was asked again if I had any pain weeing, which I didn’t. As time went on I began waking up in the middle of the night with really bad stomach aches, being sick, and also having lots of nosebleeds. My Mum took me to the doctor again on the way to picking up my birthday party bag presents in Leeds. A locum doctor saw me and sent me straight to Dewsbury hospital to have scans. Mum says me and my twin brother were so well behaved, she only got really concerned when she was asked to go into a separate room to speak to a doctor, as she could see no other reason not to speak in front of us both.
We were whisked off in an ambulance to St James hospital, where I had a lot more tests and we didn’t leave for another three months. My stomach swelled up a lot and I felt very poorly. I started having chemotherapy to shrink the tumour to make it manageable to remove by surgery. I lost a lot of weight, my clothes hung off me and my hair fell out. I couldn’t keep any food down so I had to have a nasogastric tube fitted to feed me. I remember my mum holding my hand while it was put in. I was sick a lot and I felt terrible.
At times though, I felt a bit better. I liked colouring, seeing Jolly Trolly and choosing sweets from her trolley. She even let me accompany her on her rounds once, I must have been excited as I remember it well. Mum stayed in hospital with me whilst Dad went to work and friends and family looked after my brother at home. Sometimes I could go home, and even go to school for lessons as long as Mum was there to look after me at playtime. I remember driving to McDonalds for a cheeseburger or having pasta with tomato and mascarpone sauce at home because they were the only things I could manage to eat. Being allowed McDonalds was one small silver lining to being unwell.
We were in and out of hospital for a year. I had to have very aggressive chemotherapy, and would get neutropenia and have to go into hospital in the middle of the night with a high temperature for IV antibiotics. My Mum knew when it was likely to happen. My twin brother was very kind and always had a sick bowl handy! Because the chemotherapy was very aggressive, I also had to have heart scans to make sure it wasn’t affecting my heart. Baby Doll was never left out and we both got to wear the sticky pads together.
Towards the end of my treatment I had to have radiotherapy. That made me really tired. We went to my Grandparents for Christmas and Mum floated tea tree and rosemary oils on water in a burner to help sterilise the air. It must have worked as I didn’t have to go into hospital over Christmas and we had a lovely time. We all attended the Candlelighters Christmas party at the Royal Armories. Father Christmas was invited too and it was great fun.
After the treatment finished I started feeling a lot better and went for lots of follow up x-rays and scans and the dreaded finger prick blood tests!
Fast forward the years, and I did well in my GCSE’s and went on to do A levels at Greenhead College. It’s difficult to say how much I was influenced by my own medical history but I decided I wanted to be a doctor. I knew the qualities I had appreciated in the medical team treating me and I hoped I could one day adopt these into my own practise.
I worked hard, interviewed for a part time job in a pharmacy and volunteered at a local care home along with doing work experience in hospitals. Fortunately I was given two offers and made the grade to study medicine at my first choice, Birmingham University. I have now graduated, completed my FY1 and FY2 years and have started GP training at St Georges Hospital in South London.
Interestingly my twin brother who studied mechanical Engineering at Sheffield University also selected a medical role in his field. He has worked on designing an orthopaedic fixation system for broken hips and now works in designing cryogenic medical research equipment.
All the family are so grateful and thankful for the team at St James Children’s Oncology Unit and the ongoing follow up. We also loved the short break we were able to have in Preston, organised by Candlelighters, and riding bikes beside the beach. Going forward I hope to offer my own patients the same care and dedication that was shown to me as a child.