Agriculture minister shed tears at shock news after appendix surgery
Stormont minister Edwin Poots says he will give “serious consideration” to having private surgery after being diagnosed with kidney cancer as urgent cancer operations remain cancelled due to coronavirus pressures.
Appearing on the BBC’s Stephen Nolan Show on Wednesday morning, the DUP MLA said his cancer was discovered during his recent spell in hospital to remove his appendix.
Mr Poots says his condition is treatable and the prognosis is good. He also said he was feeling no ill-effects.
He has vowed to continue his ministerial work as he awaits the procedure.
The six centimetre tumour on his kidney was discovered by chance when he underwent emergency surgery on a burst appendix at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital after being rushed from his home outside Hillsborough, Co Down just before Christmas.
A CT scan taken as part of his treatment detected a suspicious growth on his kidney.
Prior to his surgery, Mr Poots was also diagnosed with Covid-19 but did not have any symptoms.
The 55-year-old Lagan Valley MLA said he was told about the discovery as he recovered from a two-hour appendix surgery, adding that he was otherwise feeling well.
"The consultant told me the surgery had gone very well, but when they were looking at the scan they noticed a growth on my right kidney,” he told the BBC.
When asked about his reaction, Mr Poots replied: “It wasn’t the best 24 hours of my life after the burst appendix, being told I had Covid and then about this suspicious growth on my kidney.
“I have a strong personal faith and I know some people will deride that and sneer but I felt very strongly that God had put me on my back so that this would be discovered and that he has a further purpose for me in life. That’s something that I took great comfort from.”
However, the coronavirus pandemic has delayed his ability to get an operation on the NHS in Northern Ireland and he is considering private health care.
Mr Poots has been told that his cancer surgery may be delayed for around six weeks.
"It is not a good place to be. I'm a strong character and have good presence of mind. The day after the appendix operation the pain relief wasn't working very well and logical Edwin disappeared and emotional Edwin kicked.
"I rang my wife to ask if she would come and see me but she wasn't sure if she would be allowed but said she would try.
"I was getting very emotional and not being logical at the time."
The Agriculture Minister said while he was opposed to private health care, believing it should be available to all, he would not risk his life for a political ideology.
“I would never have taken out private health insurance because I have always believed that what is good enough for the public is good enough for me as a public representative.
“But whenever I need it, it is not here to help me because it is totally absorbed in dealing with Covid-19 and that’s hugely disappointing at a personal level.”
While he has not yet made a decision on paying for his surgery, Mr Poots says he will give it “serious consideration”.
“At the end of the day if I have to spend £10,000 or £15,000 - I don’t know much it would be to be honest - if I have to spent that, I will do, because it is better to have something out of you that has the potential to take your life than carry on. It may be in England, the Republic of Ireland or here - I don't know.
“I wouldn't rule it out and some people may criticise me for that but I’m not going to give up my life for a political ideology.”
He added: “Why would you let it spread to another organ, or let it grow, if you know the problem exists?
“My prognosis is good. I don’t need chemotherapy. I don’t need radio therapy. I need an operation.”
Mr Poots also says he believes “significantly more people” will die because the Covid pandemic has led to lead to the cancellation of treatments.
The former health minister who has also held the environment and culture arts and leisure portfolios, was in front of MLAs on Tuesday taking questions on agriculture matters and Brexit.
In an email sent to his party colleagues, Mr Poots said it’s is “very much business as usual” while he awaits surgery.”
Social media was awash with well-wishers after news of his illness first emerged on Tuesday night.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said it was “reassuring to see the lovely comments from across the political spectrum for Edwin”.
“Cancer is indiscriminate and cruel,” she said. “Has touched so many. I talked to Edwin after he received this diagnosis. He has great determination and is sustained by a loving wife, family and great faith.”