Former Bloxham resident takes to the road for cancer research

Jon and Sarah Birchall NNL-150629-125724001
Jon and Sarah Birchall NNL-150629-125724001

A man who has terminal kidney cancer is setting off on a road trip he hopes will help defend others with the illness.

Jon Birchall, formerly of Bloxham, now living in Herefordshire, sets off today (Thursday) on the second leg of a five-stage, 5,000-mile motorbike ride around Britain’s coastline.

He will be riding 1,500 miles around the Scottish coast with his friend and supporter Vaughn Armstrong, a Bloxham neighbour. The two aim to raise thousands for research into finding a test for kidney cancer.

“Most cases are diagnosed by accident while doctors are looking for other things. There are no concrete symptoms and there is no reliable test of blood or urine,” said Mr Birchall, 54.

“Now the Royal Free and St Bartholemew’s hospitals are screening people with kidney cancer to discover markers to try to form a routine test.

“If they can achieve it, it’ll make such a difference. Early detection is vital. It would also allow them to decide on the best combination of therapies for those diagnosed.”

Mr Birchall and his wife Sarah have set up a charity with a £50,000 target to help fund the research. Facingup2kidneycancer.org website has been designed by Banbury company Toast, for whom Mr Armstrong is head of online marketing.

Mr Birchall was diagnosed with kidney cancer, which has spread to his lungs, five years ago after a disastrous misdiagnosis. The former BBC Farmer of the Year was working a 2,000 acre farm near Luton when he went for a private health check where doctors diagnosed his exhaustion and night sweats as ‘episodic fatigue’.

“I accepted it and decided to keep going. Two years later I was feeling worse and had acid reflux and nausea. By this time I was living in Bloxham and my GP sent me for a scan at the Horton. The body language of the radiologist was obvious,” said Mr Birchall.

“They had picked up a lump the size of a grapefruit. They knew at once it was cancer.”

The kidney was removed and apparently had not spread. Mr and Mrs Birchall moved to a smallholding in Herefordshire and he became a farming consultant. But a routine scan showed the cancer had spread.

The bike ride ends on September 30 in London. Mr Birchall will then promote the fund by making public appearances to raise awareness and encourage contributions to the research into the eighth most common cancer in the UK.

See facebook.com/FacingUp2KidneyCancer or jameswhalefund.org