Tuesday, February 20, 2018

From Stomach Flu Sufferer to "Cancer Survivor" in 45 Days

In my last post, entitled "Everything Happens for a Reason," I told you the story of how the little angel baby next door gave me a bad case of the stomach flu just before Christmas. That led to a trip to the ER, which led to an X-ray, CT Scan, and MRI of my abdomen, which revealed that I had a small mass (oxymoron!) on my right kidney. Ugh.

On Tuesday, February 6th, I underwent surgery to have that mass removed, not knowing whether it was cancerous or not.  The technical name for the procedure I had done is a "robotic-assisted laprascopic partial right nephrectomy." That's a fancy way of saying the doctor used something akin to a medical video game to go in and cut out a chunk of my right kidney, taking the tumor with it.

My post-surgery belly
The nice thing about this surgery--if there can really be something nice about having part of one of your body's vital organs removed--is that it could be done via four smallish puncture wounds in my abdomen and a small incision in my belly button (through which they removed the tumor). Thank God for robots.

The surgery went as well as it possibly could have, and after an overnight stay in the hospital I was on my way home just about 24 hours later. I was sore and a bit limited in my ability to move for a few days, but I was incredibly lucky to have my amazing wife to take care of me.

Last week, I followed up with my urologist and got the results of the pathology report on my tumor.

Measuring 2.2 cm x 2.1 cm x 1.6 cm, the mass removed from my kidney was indeed cancerous. Officially, it was a "papillary renal cell carcinoma, Type I." But the doctor told me they got all of it--"it just kind of plopped out," he said--and there were no signs of cancer in any of the fatty tissue adjacent to the tumor. In my doctor's words, I'm "gonna be fine." No need for any chemo or radiation. Just a follow-up CT scan in eight weeks or so to see how things look without the tumor there. And maybe a couple/few CT scans down the road just to make sure things continue to look good.

Whew. That's a load off my mind, for sure. Obviously, I was hoping the mass was benign, but if it was going to end up being cancerous, I think this scenario is about as good as I could've hoped for.

When I posted the pathology report findings on Facebook (because that's what we do nowadays, right?), I got a lot of love from my friends. A few of them even referred to me as a "cancer survivor," which made me feel kind of strange. I wondered: Can I be a cancer survivor despite the fact that I didn't even know I had cancer until it was removed from my body? I guess so, but I tend to think of cancer survivors as people who are diagnosed prior to having to undergo surgery, or chemo, or radiation. People who fight like hell to beat cancer and succeed. People whose bodies and minds suffer greatly while they go through the battle of their lifetime. Me? I went from having a bad case of the stomach flu to having a tumor removed in just 45 days. I barely had time to worry about cancer, let alone survive it.

If people want to call me a cancer survivor, I'll begrudgingly accept it. After all, it's way better than the alternative. But I know there are true cancer survivors out there who have been through a hell of a lot more than I have, and who are way stronger than me.

One thing is for certain, though: I will be forever grateful that my little buddy next door--his name is Everett--got me sick so doctors could discover a cancerous tumor on my kidney. If I didn't get the stomach flu from Ev, that tumor would still be growing inside of me. And who knows how long it would've been before it was discovered. Or if it would've been discovered? Or what my prognosis would've been by the time someone finally figured out I had cancer?

I have to admit, this whole serendipitous experience has freaked me out a little. But in a good way. And I am thankful for whatever force, or forces, put it all into motion.


"Can you still have any famous last words/If you're somebody nobody knows..."
--Ryan Adams (from his song "Strawberry Wine")

No comments:

Post a Comment