LISTEN: Peter Kent opens up about his battle with stage 4 cancer
OTTAWA – Just before Christmas last year, Conservative MP Peter Kent discovered a lump in his throat.
Doctors thought it was a minor cyst, but after an operation in February they made a much more ominous diagnosis: carcinoma in his lymph nodes.
It was stage 4 throat and tongue cancer.
“It was a very sobering message,” the 71-year-old MP in the north Toronto riding of Thornhill, Ont. told Global News Thursday.
“They were optimistic with the prognosis from the beginning, but you still never know.”
For seven weeks in April and May, Kent underwent 33 radiation and three chemotherapy treatments at the Odette Cancer Centre at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital.
He describes the process as “very brutal.”
“You come out of that feeling pretty beaten up,” said Kent. “It’s really hard on the body. It takes a lot of you.”
He lost 25 pounds, and still deals with a lingering fatigue.
“I wanted to lose some weight before all of this happened, but I lost considerably more than I wanted. So I’ve got to put on a little bit more.”
As his wife taxied him to the hospital every weekday, Kent kept up with his Parliamentary work by monitoring question period and the defence committee via iPad, computer and television.
“It was very frustrating. I’ve got a lot of House duty to pay back to colleagues who covered for me,” he said.
But, it worked: this week, Kent was told he is cancer-free.
“It’s something a lot of people, thousands of people, go through every day across the country,” he says.
“I’m really lucky and very grateful as I said in the Tweet to the Sunnybrook professionals for not only great technical medical care, but for very compassionate treatment.”
Now, Kent says he’ll be an unlikely advocate for vaccinating young boys, as well as girls, against the human papillomaviruses or HPV – the source of his cancer.
“It has been a controversial topic,” Kent says.
“My doctors tell me that unless young boys are vaccinated on a wide scale, there will be a spike in the incidents of this sort of HPV cancer in the decades ahead.”
He credits his doctors for discovering the cancer, and has been back working in his constituency since July.
“It’s a great relief to go from stage 4 to all clear in the matter of four months,” he said. “For the moment at least I’m cancer-free, and the treatment was a roaring success.”
The former environment minister, who was shuffled out of cabinet last summer, says he’s still planning on running in 2015.
He wants to continue his defence committee work as well as advocating local issues, such as the creation of the Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to Ottawa next week,” said Kent.
“I’ve never felt better actually. I’m glad I got it out of the way this year.”