Edwin Poots: I’m fighting cancer battle and I still have no date for surgery

Edwin Poots has revealed that he is fighting a battle with cancer after a tumour in his right kidney was discovered by chance before Christmas.

Wednesday, 20th January 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th January 2021, 7:27 am
Edwin Poots following his appendix surgery last month

Stormont’s agriculture minister underwent emergency surgery in hospital in December for a perforated appendix. A scan undertaken as part of his treatment also uncovered a growth in his kidney which doctors believe is cancerous.

The DUP MLA for Lagan Valley is now waiting to have the kidney removed, but his prognosis is positive and he is not expected to require chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

In an exclusive interview with the News Letter, the 55-year-old said he believes that but for his perforated appendix, the cancer would have gone undetected and then spread to major organs.

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Edwin Poots with First Minister Arlene Foster. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

“I was feeling well and had absolutely no signs, and absolutely no symptoms,” he continued. “I wouldn’t have known about the cancer growth had it not been for the appendix. I’m hugely grateful that I have felt the hand of God upon my life, with that happening.”

The minister also revealed that with some cancer surgeries having been postponed because of Covid-19, he is still waiting for a date for the operation.

“The fact that you have cancer and that the health service isn’t available to you to carry out the surgery for you, that is a significant struggle.”

The agriculture minister says the uncertainty surrounding his own treatment has given him a personal insight into the distress suffered by cancer patients during the pandemic.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots on a visit to Hollowbridge Farm last year. He is with farm owner Stephen Gibson and his son Stuart Gibson. Photo by Simon Graham.

“The operation should have been taking place now or in the next couple of weeks, but it might not take place for quite a long time, unless I do it privately,” explained Mr Poots.

“I might not even be able to get it done privately in Northern Ireland. It’s not something that I have done a lot of investigating into because I was getting my consultations finished.

“But the fact that you have cancer and that the health service isn’t available to you to carry out the surgery for you, that is a significant struggle.

“It’s a massive struggle for so many people who have cancer and are awaiting surgery, particularly for those whose surgery is of a more urgent nature.”

Mr Poots says the waiting list for his type of cancer surgery was between six to eight weeks a year ago, but it has taken that length of time for him to get an appointment with a consultant.

“It’s disappointing that the health service isn’t there for you when you actually need it, and many hundreds of people are going through a similar circumstance,” he said.

Mr Poots is “strongly of the opinion” that with people here getting diagnosed later with cancer and operations being delayed, overall deaths caused by delays to cancer treatment will exceed deaths from Covid-19.

“I understand that they have to cancel surgeries because of the lack of availability of ICU beds and because anaesthetists have been directed towards supporting people with Covid,” he said. “But as soon as that starts to ease, they really need to tackle those cancer surgery waits very quickly.”

He added: “It strikes me that every other aspect of health is being diminished because of Covid-19 and the sooner we get vaccinations rolled out and normality back to Northern Ireland, the better for all of us.”

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