A university lecturer from Menston, near Ilkley, is helping Yorkshire Cancer Research raise awareness of cancer after being diagnosed with the disease twice in the past six years.
Peter Hogg, who teaches architecture at Huddersfield University, is hoping that by sharing his story he will encourage people to see their GP as soon as possible if they have any concerns about their health.
The 60-year-old was diagnosed with kidney cancer in May 2011 after passing blood in his urine.
Peter said: “It began suddenly and I was obviously shocked. The GP thought it was a kidney stone and told me to leave it for a few weeks and see if it cleared up. I carried on as normal, but then I collapsed at work and suffered from a massive pain in my back.
“I was taken to A&E at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, where doctors asked me for a sample of urine. A huge blood clot came through, and they said that might be what was causing the pain. They thought it might be part of a kidney stone, but they decided to take a biopsy just in case.”
The biopsy revealed cancerous cells just underneath Peter’s left kidney. In September, he underwent an operation called a ‘radical nephrectomy’, which involves removing the whole kidney, the fatty tissues surrounding the kidney and a portion of the tube connecting the kidney to the bladder.
Peter was forced to give up work for six months while he recovered from his operation. He also began a course of chemotherapy, but after one session it was decided that he didn’t require further treatment.
Peter said: “Finding out you have cancer is the most devastating thing you can be told. It takes the wind out of your sails, especially when you’re not expecting it. I’d never smoked and had kept very fit. I’d always played huge amounts of sport, including golf and hockey, and I cycled regularly.
“After being diagnosed with kidney cancer and going through treatment, I decided it was more important than ever now to stay healthy. I took stock of my lifestyle and became more focused. I wanted to be at the peak of my fitness so I wasn’t vulnerable if anything came up again.”
A year later, Peter noticed a large mole on the left side of his body while on holiday. He decided to book an appointment with his GP, who sent him to specialists in Leeds. A biopsy was taken and in May 2013 he was told once again that he had cancer. This time it was malignant melanoma, the most aggressive and life-threatening form of skin cancer.
“I just couldn’t believe that I had cancer again,” Peter said. “I remember thinking ‘give me a break, what’s going on here?’ But I was glad that I had done something about the mole and that I’d been diagnosed and could be treated. I’m fair-skinned and I do have a lot of moles, so skin cancer was something I was already aware of. Early diagnosis is a big issue. I would recommend anyone to go for check-ups if they’re worried. People shouldn’t be afraid, because being diagnosed at an early stage may save your life or prolong it.”
Over the next six months, Peter underwent a series of operations to remove the mole and tissue surrounding it. He also had a biopsy taken to check if the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes.
Peter said: “It was harder than dealing with the kidney cancer. In that situation, they knew where the cancer was and could remove it. I could understand that and live with it. This time, they weren’t sure where it was. The idea that it could have spread was a nightmare.
“They had to take samples from both my armpit and my groin, which was quite frightening. Waiting for the results and going back in to see the consultant caused me a lot of anxiety, but you just have to get on with it.”
Thankfully, Peter’s cancer hadn’t spread and no further treatment was needed, but he continues to have his moles checked every six months at St James’s University Hospital, Leeds. He now wears SPF 50 sunscreen when outdoors and a moisturiser with SPF 20 on his face and hands every day, all year around. He also wears a hat and protective clothing in the sun.
“I feel a bit of a wally sometimes,” Peter admits. “I love sitting in the sun, but I can’t now. It’s really important that I protect my skin. When I was a kid I used to play outside all summer. Sunscreen was never heard of in the 60s and 70s. I would burn every now and then but didn’t think anything of it.
“I would urge people to be safe in the sun by wearing high factor sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30, and by covering up. Everyone in my family now wears SPF 50 in the sun.”
Just as his life was beginning to return to normal and he was slowly regaining fitness, Peter was dealt another blow when he suffered a heart attack caused by a blood clot in May 2015. He now has regular checks on his heart and has had to rethink how to get back in condition.
He said: “I don’t know if I’m extremely unlucky or extremely lucky. I know people who have died from cancer. I’ve had things that could be treated. There’s a joke that asks what the eternal optimist says as he falls from a high building. Passing every floor he’s heard to say ‘So far, so good’. That’s me. I’ve always tried to take things one day at a time and be positive about everything. Being diagnosed with cancer sharpens your focus on life and makes you appreciate everything around you more.”
Peter and his wife Helen recently held a party to celebrate their 60th birthdays and asked for donations to be made to Yorkshire Cancer Research in lieu of gifts. They raised a total of £1,400 for the charity.
Peter added: “I think it’s important that we put something back and do what we can to help others. We’re proud to support Yorkshire Cancer Research, which is dedicated to helping people living in our region. We feel a great identity with Yorkshire and love everything about it.”
Picture Captions: 1) Peter Hogg is hoping to raise awareness of cancer after being diagnosed with the disease twice in the past six years. 2) Peter Hogg and his wife Helen present a cheque to Mikaela Hulme, Supporter Care Manager at Yorkshire Cancer Research (left) following their 60th birthday party.
Notes to Editors
- Harrogate-based Yorkshire Cancer Research was founded in 1925 and is the largest independent regional cancer charity in England (Registered Charity 516898). We are not part of a national charity.
- We are committed to reducing the devastating impact of cancer on the lives of people living in Yorkshire.
- Our mission is to work in partnership, fund research and support initiatives that will help people in Yorkshire avoid, survive and cope with cancer.
- Current statistics show that 565 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire every week. Incidence and mortality rates are higher than the England average due to social deprivation, post-industrialisation and lifestyle choices but also availability of healthcare services and difficulties accessing early diagnostics, clinical trials and the latest treatments.
- We aim to:
- Be the leading authority on cancer in Yorkshire, understanding the problems and priorities in the region and sharing knowledge with partners.
- Raise awareness of cancer and how to prevent it by working in local communities, schools and colleges, sports clubs and with other health-related organisations.
- Promote screening programmes and fund research that can improve the diagnosis of cancer so we can detect and treat it at the earliest opportunity.
- Invest in innovative research projects at every stage of a cancer patient’s journey.
- Campaign for fair and equal access to the very best healthcare services and a greater share of the money spent nationally on research.
- For further information, please visit www.yorkshirecancerresearch.org.uk or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.
- Nikki Brady, Senior PR Officer – Yorkshire Cancer Research
- Tel: 01423 877 228
- Last updated: 12/06/2017
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