‘Thank you NHS for saving my life from cancer’

Jennifer Atkinson, of Tickhill, underwent a four-and-half-hour radical cystectomy at Sheffields Royal Hallamshire Hospital.
Jennifer Atkinson, of Tickhill, underwent a four-and-half-hour radical cystectomy at Sheffields Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

A 70-year-old woman has hailed the NHS for saving her life after complex major surgery to cure her cancer by removing her bladder and womb.

Jennifer Atkinson, of Tickhill, underwent a four-and-half-hour radical cystectomy at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

She was one of a group of patients able to return home three days after the surgery as a result of enhanced post-operative recovery procedures at the hospital’s urology department.

In Jennifer’s case, the operation went so well she will be able to return to modelling, which she does for a dress shop in Bawtry.

She said: “I feel wonderful and I can’t fault the treatment I have had at any stage of the process. It really has been world class. I want to thank the NHS for saving my life.”

She wanted to thank staff at the hospital as part of bladder cancer awareness month.

She said when she was given the bad news tests showed she had bladder cancer, it was like someone had “hit me with a brick”.

She said: “I was in shock, but the doctors were calm and reassuring and told me it could be treated with chemotherapy and an operation.

“I had never had surgery before, except to have my tonsils out when I was four.

“My father had died from cancer when I was 16, so I was frightened, although I know treatments have obviously moved on a lot since then.”

Only a few years’ ago the surgery needed an hospital stay of up to two weeks, but technical improvements mean many patients are able to go home within five days.

She said: “I was pleased to get home, especially as I had my husband there to look after me.

“We’ve just come back from Thailand and I managed fantastically well.”

Aidan Noon, consultant urological surgeon, carried out Jennifer’s operation.

He said: “There are many benefits to the patient being at home sooner.

“There is less risk of hospital- acquired infections. They tend to get a better night’s sleep at home and they are more comfortable in their own environment.

“It is a complex procedure because of the proximity of major blood vessels and the rectum, and requires bowel surgery to make a stoma or reservoir for the urine.

“The biggest barrier really was to re-evaluate expectations around what was possible after this operation. This is a start and now we hope three-day discharges can become more routine.”