Victorian upper house MP Fiona Patten reveals kidney cancer diagnosis

Reason party leader says she still plans to fight November state election after undergoing surgery next month

Victorian MP Fiona Patten has revealed she has been diagnosed with cancer after a tumour was recently discovered on her kidney.

The Reason party leader will undergo a nephrectomy – the removal of the affected kidney – in early October and still plans to contest the state election on 26 November.

She says the prognosis is “good”, given the tumour was detected at a relatively early stage.

“It did come as a shock but thankfully I’ve got two kidneys,” Patten told Guardian Australia.

“At the end of the day, I am one of tens of thousands of people to receive a cancer diagnosis this year. Nearly half of us will get such a diagnosis in our life. There is no shame in it.

“I’m being open and upfront about my diagnosis in the hope it encourages others to be, and of course, to urge anyone experiencing worrying symptoms to contact their doctor.”

Patten said she began experiencing symptoms, including blood in her urine, “sporadically for a couple of months” and was encouraged by a member of her team to make an appointment to see a doctor.

“Like many people, I thought, ‘I’ll get to it later,’ but she immediately booked me an appointment with her doctor,” Patten said.

“I’m so grateful to her for giving me that push.”

Patten has represented the Northern Metropolitan region in Victoria’s upper house since 2014, first as a member of the then Sex party, before it was renamed the Reason party before the 2018 poll.

She has been instrumental in the advancement of several progressive policies such as the introduction of the country’s first voluntary assisted dying scheme, safe access zones around abortion clinics, a safe injecting room in North Richmond, a spent convictions scheme and the decriminalisation of sex work.

Patten said her cancer diagnosis will “undeniably” impact her ability to campaign in the lead-up to the election. She was narrowly re-elected in 2018 and will have another tough fight on her hands to retain her seat this year, in part due to an influx in rightwing micro parties, who are expected to direct preferences to each other.

“I will still be campaigning but I may have to do some of it from bed – I’ll need to get a nice pair of work pyjamas,” Patten said.

“But I know I am incredibly privileged to be able to do my job and get the care that I need.”

It is not yet known whether Patten will require further treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy after the nephrectomy.

More than 4,300 Australians are diagnosed with kidney cancer annually, according to the Cancer Council, with the five-year survival rate currently 79%.

Kidney cancer is more common in men, though Patten is the second female politician in recent months to receive a diagnosis. The New South Wales deputy Labor leader, Prue Car, announced in July she would take leave after being diagnosed with the cancer.


Benita Kolovos

The GuardianTramp

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