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A year after surgery to remove a kidney that had been found to contain a cancerous tumour, he returned to the Royal Free hospital, in Hampstead, to thank the staff who delivered “Rolls-Royce” care.
Six months after the operation, Mr Streeting, MP for Ilford North, was promoted to shadow health secretary and has been tipped as a future Labour leader.
“I wouldn’t recommend this as a career development opportunity,” he told the Standard. “But having kidney cancer has definitely given me an experience that makes me very well placed to be the patients’ champion. That is certainly the kind of health secretary I want to be.
“The moment I got my diagnosis, the Rolls-Royce machine kicked in. Pre-diagnosis, it was a little bit higgledy-piggledy.”
He returned to the Royal Free on Monday. “It was really nice to be able to go back and say thank you to a whole bunch of people who saw me through one of the most difficult periods of my life,” he said.
“My surgeon Ravi Barod, my clinical nurse specialist David Cullen, are people I will remember for the rest of my life because of the way they supported and cared for me through what was a completely shocking, out-of-the-blue kidney cancer diagnosis.
“It was quite emotional for me. It was a really difficult time in my life, but one that was made infinitely more easy and bearable thanks to the support I had from the staff.”
Today @WesStreeting visited our amazing kidney cancer team at the Royal Free Hospital to say thank you for the care he received last year.
We're delighted Wes has made a full recovery and are incredibly proud of our colleagues for the part they played. pic.twitter.com/sKnzjN2Tiq
— Royal Free London (@RoyalFreeNHS) July 4, 2022
He had been referred to the Royal Free after an “eagle-eyed” urologist at King George hospital, in Ilford, had spotted the tumour. Mr Streeting had been driven by his partner Joe Dancey to its A&E early on March 3 in excruciating pain from a kidney stone.
“On the same scan, they detected a lump which turned out to be kidney cancer,” he said. “That is why I consider myself to be very, very lucky. The [cancer] diagnosis was almost an act of chance.
“I was about to be discharged from A&E and sent home. If that kidney stone hadn’t been there, in all likelihood I would be going about my work now with absolutely no idea that I had a growing tumour inside me.”
He added: “We have got some dedicated, eagle-eyed people [in the NHS] who, despite all the pressures, are managing to pay close attention to detail and make judgements that, in my case, was potentially life-saving.
“The irony is that that A&E was the A&E I campaigned to save as Ilford North’s MP. I saved the A&E and the A&E ended up saving my life.”
He was admitted to the Royal Free on May 21 and spent two nights recovering from the surgery.
“When I went in for my biopsy and my surgery, it was the loneliest I have ever felt in my life,” he said. “I had to leave my partner at the door, because family visitors and support weren’t allowed in.”
There were problems during his care. At Queen’s hospital in Romford, he was booked for an ultrasound scan rather than a CT. After the surgery, Mr Dancey had spent several hours ringing the Royal Free in vain for an update. “That was quite distressing for him.”
Mr Streeting says his prognosis is good and he is living more healthily. He said: “For someone who was 38 with a kidney cancer diagnosis, now 39 having survived it, I just feel very lucky. They caught it early. They got me in for an operation quickly. The operation was a success.
“Now I have got one kidney but my prognosis and outlook is very good. There are plenty of people who live normal, healthy, longer lives with one kidney.
“I have started taking my health more seriously. After my operation, after the summer, I set foot into a gym for the first time in my entire life. I try to be a bit more mindful about what I eat and drink.”
He has warned Simon Lightwood, Labour victor in the recent Wakefield by-election, to beware the danger of “putting on the MP’s stone”.
“It’s such a busy working environment. The number of times you just grab what you can. The Commons tea room, welcoming though it is, is like stodgy school dinners. I try to be a bit more sensible about what I eat.”