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I had kidney cancer in lockdown and wanted to raise awareness of kidney health after reading Andy Cole’s story

09 October 2020

Tony Harding was busy running his successful marketing consultancy with no health worries, when a kidney cancer diagnosis meant one kidney was removed, leaving the other at low function – all during lockdown. 

The diagnosis was a bolt out of the blue for 50-year-old Tony, of Leith in Edinburgh, who knew little about the importance of looking after the kidneys. 

He wrote a blog about his kidney cancer journey during a pandemic which became one of our most shared post on Linked In, prompting men to open up to Tony about their own health struggles.

Meanwhile, Tony has passed the first check up so doesn't have to go back for 12 months on the cancer front and his remaining kidney is just about doing as it should

Tony said: "Cancer is a club none of us want to join, but sadly many of us end up on the dance floor.

“Like most people I took my health and my kidneys for granted.”

Tony spent hours googling lifestyle advice, which is how he discovered the Andy Cole Fund with Kidney Research UK.

“As a huge Manchester United fan Andy’s story resonated. For me, I had a previous kidney stone. I still had some niggling pains. I went for a scan on my left kidney and the scan showed a shadow on my right kidney and that was it. It was a classic male thing as I very nearly didn’t go for the scan. Glad I did as it turned out it was more serious than I thought! I had turned 50, got a 10cm cancerous tumour in my right kidney and was told I may need dialysis, all within weeks of Covid-19 hitting.

“I was told, ‘You could catch Covid – you are a big guy, you have slightly high blood pressure, you’re type-2 diabetic and the surgery is open.’ My brain went into a state of denial, confusion and in truth I felt scared.”

Helping to raise awareness

Keen to help raise awareness of kidney health, Tony wrote a blog for his company’s Linkedin page, Momentum SPK, and was astounded by the engagement. 

Tony Harding
Tony Harding with partner Elaine Britton and dog Scarlet.

“More than 17,000 people viewed it on Linkedin and there were 260+ comments with a further 300 comments on Facebook, with loads of people sharing their stories and sending private messages asking questions about it - it was humbling. However, most of it was on the cancer and not so much on the kidney aspect.

“The interaction was phenomenal, but it taught me that most people, like myself, don’t realise the importance of our kidneys, what they do and how to look after them. I never knew how much salt we take daily and how important it is to look after your kidneys”

“My remaining kidney is smaller so the eGFR is a lot lower than it should be, with one kidney it should be about 35/40, mine sits at between 16-18. Dialysis can start at 15 so my sole job is to keep that kidney as healthy as possible. The thought of going from cancer to dialysis is not one I relish. I am a big Northern cuddly lad and was told at my size I would need dialysis for five hours a day for three days a week.”

Having a can-do attitude

To keep it healthy, Tony has since changed his diet, reduced salt intake to 4-6g a day maximum and increased his exercise of typically 8-12,000 steps a day with his trusted dog Scarlet. He drinks lots of water (four litres a day) and ensures he has no fizzy drinks, no alcohol, no processed food and only one coffee a week.

Tony has a solutions-based, can-do attitude and says he is getting on with his new normal, supported every step of the way thanks to his partner Elaine Britton and dog Scarlet.

“I feel lucky,” he said. “Had it not been picked up it would be much worse. The more people who understand it can happen to anybody, the better.”

Don't wait! Get checked out

He added: “If you have any doubts about your own health please go to the hospital or see your doctor. I’m very lucky. If things had been slightly different, I would probably be sitting on my settee, completely unaware what was happening. I had no real symptoms, just very occasional tiny pain in my side. So, if you are reading this and you’re not sure about something, if you’re feeling sore, if you’re worried – just go and see your GP! Don’t wait!”

Read Tony’s blog here:
Read more about the Andy Cole Fund.

My toughest battle and how I’ve dealt with it

Andy Cole tells his story, from iconic footballer to kidney transplant patient

Our research projects

Read about our past and current research projects and how they’re helping patients

Step up to the challenge

How you can get involved by hosting a charity football match or regular donations. Plus, find out how you can meet the man himself

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