I’ve been told heartburn is from drinking too much

A UNI student is fighting for her life after doctors initially said her symptoms were heartburn from drinking too much.

Georgia Ford, 20, said she developed a “choking” cough in April 2021 and nausea soon after.

Georgia Ford, 20, said she developed a


Georgia Ford, 20, said she developed a “choking” cough in April 2021 and nausea soon after, with doctors blaming acid refluxPhoto credit: Kennedy News
Georgia is being treated for kidney cancer


Georgia is being treated for kidney cancerPhoto credit: Kennedy News

But a family doctor simply put it down to her partying lifestyle and prescribed her stomach pills.

Over the course of several months, Georgia’s health problems, which included weight loss and back pain, worsened.

After countless doctor visits, Georgia was stunned when she was finally told in November that her symptoms were due to a kidney cancer called papillary renal cell carcinoma.

The student has since received the heartbreaking news that the cancer has spread throughout her body and is incurable.

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The aspiring criminal lawyer said she will “always wonder” if her illness was caught earlier, if her prognosis might be different.

Georgia, from Stroud, Gloucestershire, said: “I don’t know how much sicker I’ve gotten in that time and if maybe my story would have been a little different if I’d been caught a little earlier.

“It’s one of those questions I’ll never know but keep asking.”

When Georgia went to see her GP because she was feeling sick — a symptom of heartburn — he asked her about her drinking habits.

She said, “They said, ‘Do you drink a lot?’ and I said ‘yes, obviously I do’ so they gave me these stomach lining pills.

“You believe what the doctor says and I thought, ‘I drink a lot and it’s not the poison of alcohol, maybe it’s just upsetting my stomach a lot’.

“The pills didn’t work and then it was blamed on various other things.”

Georgia’s first symptom to emerge was back pain in August 2020, more than a year before the diagnosis.

Georgia claims the hospital said she had muscle spasms.

She said: “My lower back pain got really bad again last October, which in hindsight was obviously my kidneys.

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

“I attribute my back pain to poor posture or sleeping position. I’ve always slumped and sat weird.”

However, Georgia’s cough was her “main symptom” and was so severe that she vomited.

She said: “I went to my GP several times and was told different things.

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

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

“It was quite a choking cough, it would literally take my breath away.

“I thought it was just my body reacting to the candle burning at both ends for so long.

“I was coughing so much that I felt nauseous. That’s when I started to lose weight because I wasn’t holding on to food very well.”

Georgia said her cough had gotten progressively worse, to the point where she couldn’t walk as far as usual, and climbing stairs had also become a struggle.

Her vomiting was at its worst in August 2021 when she started coughing up blood.

Georgia rushed to A&E, where they took an X-ray and found “cloudy patches” on her lungs.

But she claims she was reassured it wasn’t cancer or “something life-threatening.”

She was referred to a ventilator team for three months, but during that time she became much more unwell and lost 10kg in the fall.

Georgia booked a private appointment and was eventually diagnosed with papillary renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer, in November 2021.

Renal cell cancer is the most common type of kidney cancer in adults (80 percent), of which papillae are one form (15 percent).

It is more commonly seen in older adults, with symptoms such as pain in the sides, weight loss, fever, and blood in the urine.

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

“I was just so shocked. It was just the most devastating feeling of basically experiencing the worst case scenario.

“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 pretty far from where it originally was.’

“They also told me at the time that it was incurable.

“It’s just like this overwhelming sadness that’s filling you right now.

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

“But back then, in a matter of weeks, I had gone from being a full-fledged university student to a hospitalized cancer patient. It was amazing.

“It literally turned my life upside down.”

Since then, the law student has started immunotherapy, which involves taking medication daily and having an IV drip every two weeks.

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

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

Georgia set up GoFundMe to raise funds for two charities that are supporting her during her treatment.

Georgia said: “Regardless of what a doctor or healthcare professional says, you know your body better than anyone.

“If you think something is wrong, you have to push and push.

“You’re better off pushing and knowing for sure it’s not cancer than letting it go and finding out it was.

“Then the doctor who misdiagnosed me said, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that in someone your age, I never expected it’. That was the only excuse they have.

You can donate to GoFundMe in Georgia here.

Georgia was told at the age of 20 that her cancer was terminal


Georgia was told at the age of 20 that her cancer was terminalPhoto credit: Kennedy News
The law student urged others to listen to their bodies and urge testing


The law student urged others to listen to their bodies and urge testingPhoto credit: Kennedy News I’ve been told heartburn is from drinking too much

Sarah Y. Kim

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