‘Overwhelming grief’ when drink-loving college student is told devastating condition is ‘incurable’

A student has shared her terror after the heartburn doctors told her that drinking in college turned out to be in fact an incurable cancer.

Britain’s Georgia Ford said she developed a ‘choking’ cough last April and soon afterwards became nauseous, but a doctor attributed this to the amount of alcohol she drank and prescribed her gastric mucosa tablets.

WATCH VIDEO ABOVE: Student talks about signs of kidney cancer

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But over the course of several months, the 20-year-old’s symptoms worsened, including weight loss and back pain.

“Originally, the GP said the illness was acid reflux from the amount I drank because I was a student,” Georgia said.

“They were like, ‘Do you drink a lot?’ and I was like ‘yes, of course I do’, so they put me on these gastric mucosal protective tablets.

“You believe what the doctor says and I thought, ‘I drink a lot, and it’s not alcohol, maybe it’s just bothering me a lot.’

“But then I got home where I’m not a big drinker and it still went on so I was a little upset about why it didn’t just stop.

“The tablets didn’t work and then it was attributed to several other things.”

Georgia Ford was horrified to discover that her heartburn, which doctors said she had had too much to drink, was actually terminal cancer. Credit: Kennedy News and Media

Georgia said doctors wondered for a while whether her symptoms were caused by anxiety.

“When they said that fear could be a factor, I thought, ‘I don’t consider myself an anxious person to begin with and also how can this all be psychological?’

“They basically said this was all in my head and that I wasn’t sick at all. I said, ‘I can’t believe I have so many serious symptoms and it’s all in my head’.

“I am now five months away from starting my treatment, but I could be further along if I had been diagnosed earlier.

“I don’t know how much sicker I got in that time and if if it had caught a little earlier my story might have looked a little different.

“It’s one of those questions I’ll never know, but always wonder.”

Symptoms get worse

Georgia said her cough kept getting worse to the point that it kept her from doing things like walking or running as far as usual, and climbing stairs became a struggle as well.

Her vomiting reached its worst in August, causing her to lose 10 pounds, usually between September and November.

The first time Georgia had back pain was in August 2020 and was told in the hospital that she had muscle spasms.

She experienced it again in October, along with pain in her left shoulder.

Georgia said: “The cough was my main symptom in the beginning and I went to my GP a number of times and was told different things.

“Every time we tried something new and it wouldn’t work, I would go back and try something different.

“It was quite a choking cough, it would literally take my breath away. It wasn’t brittle or dry, it was unlike anything I’d had before.

“I’d been to college to go out and be around a lot of people, and then when you come home and you’re all exhausted, you generally get a little unwell.

“So I hadn’t really thought of it when I got home because I thought it was just my body reacting for so long to the candle burning at both ends.

“Then I went back to university [last September] and it just didn’t go away.

“I had coughed so much that I would eventually get sick. Then I started losing weight because I wasn’t holding onto food properly.

“My low back pain got really bad again last October, which in retrospect was clearly my kidneys.

“It started to hurt quite a bit when I lay flat, it wasn’t very comfortable.

“I have my back pain due to bad posture or sleeping position. I’ve always slumped and sat funny.

“I was always at my desk and didn’t have a great setup or the prettiest chair in a dorm, it’s usually some junk kitchen or cheap desk chair.

“You just don’t think these things are bigger than they are. You just think ‘oh well, it’s part of what it is’.”

In August, Georgia started coughing up blood, so rushed to the emergency room where they x-rayed and detected “cloudy patches” on her lungs — but she claims she was sure it wasn’t cancer or “something was life-threatening.”

Georgia Ford said she developed a
Georgia Ford said she developed a “choking” cough last April and became nauseous shortly after, but a GP attributed this to the amount of alcohol she drank and prescribed her gastric mucosa tablets. Credit: Kennedy News and Media

She was referred to a ventilator for three months, but during this time she became very unwell, so she booked a private appointment.

The 20-year-old was eventually diagnosed with papillary renal cell carcinoma, a form of kidney cancer, last November.

Georgia said: “There have been very few times in my life where I have been speechless and I sat there and words just completely avoided me, I didn’t know what to say.

“I was just so shocked. Any hope I had that it might be something else, it was just the most sinking feeling to actually hear the worst case scenario and I was just so disappointed in everything.

“Honestly it hasn’t been the same since, that one moment literally changed my life.

“Later they said, ‘Look, it started in your kidney and it’s in your lungs, liver, lymph nodes and bones.’

“I remember thinking ‘ok, it’s spread quite a distance from the original site already’.

“Then they also told me that it was incurable.

“It’s like this overwhelming sadness that just fills you in that moment.

“Since then I’ve come a long way and I’m on my way to accepting it and learning to live with it and do what I can within the limitations of my life now.

“But at that time, I had gone from being a full-fledged university student to the hospital as a cancer patient within a matter of weeks. It was just incredible.

“It literally turned my life upside down.”

Over the course of several months, the 20-year-old's symptoms worsened, including weight loss and back pain.
Over the course of several months, the 20-year-old’s symptoms worsened, including weight loss and back pain. Credit: Kennedy News and Media

The law student said she has since started immunotherapy, taking drugs daily and receiving an IV every two weeks.

She also carries portable oxygen tanks and uses an oxygen pipe at night to help her breathe comfortably.

The goal of her treatment is to shrink the cancer as much as possible to the point where she can “live normally” and she hopes to return to college when she feels well enough.

Georgia has a fundraising page for two charities that support her during her treatment.

Georgia said: “No matter what a doctor or other health care provider says, you know your body better than anyone.

“If you think there’s something wrong and you don’t feel like what they’re saying is right, like you deserve a scan or something else, then you need to push through and push.”

What is Papillary Renal Cell Carcinoma (PRCC)

Papillary renal cell carcinoma (PRCC) is a cancer that forms in the lining of the renal tubules (the very small tubes that do the filtering).

PRCC, commonly referred to as “renal cell cancer,” is the second most common type of kidney cancer.

The average age of someone diagnosed with kidney cancer is 64, with most cases occurring in people 55 and older.

Some common symptoms of PRCC include blood in the urine, side pain, unexplained weight loss, excessive fatigue, a lump or mass in the side, and unexplained fever.

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