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Patient Stories

Voice of Kidney Cancer – Debbie’s Story

The support and information you receive on various pages and message boards like KCCure and Smart Patients are essential. You never feel alone.

Being diagnosed last May with Renal Cell Carcinoma isn’t the first time this dreaded disease has hit my family. My eldest brother, Jim, was diagnosed and succumbed to the disease in 2009.  As a matter of fact, a cancer diagnosis was becoming common in my family.  My dad had Prostate and Lung Cancer; my mother had Lung and Colon Cancer. Being told I had cancer was my biggest fear.

My cancer was an “incidental find.”  I visited my primary doctor complaining of right side pain. An ultrasound noted a mass on the left side and further testing with a CT revealed the 8 cm mass that was highly suspicious for Renal Cell Carcinoma. My hunt began for a surgeon who could remove my kidney ASAP. The wait for surgery was horrible. I could barely function. Every phone call, every doctor visit, and every lab visit – I cried and shook. I cried all day long, every day. I finally visited my family doctor and told her I didn’t feel like the same person anymore, that person was gone, this is not me! Bless her heart she got right in my face and told me I still am the person I always was.  I began the trial and error phase of different anti-anxiety medications and was urged to see a therapist.

Finally on 7/11/2018, my left kidney was removed via a hand assisted laparoscopic nephrectomy. I was relieved when my husband told me the surgeon said it was contained. Finally my anxiety lessened. Stage one had a pretty good prognosis from what I read. Two weeks later at my follow up I learned from the pathology report it was not all contained. Instead of Stage One I was Stage Three and Grade Three. The Physician Assistant told me to go to the oncologist and that they may want to do a chemo or radiation treatment. Anxiety rose again and this time to epic proportions.

After seeing my oncologist I decided to seek a second opinion on adjuvant therapy at a multi-disciplinary cancer clinic. It was there that I was told of the availability of an oncology social worker who works with patients, survivors and their families.  Finally, I felt like there was someone who would understand my extreme anxiety.

Therapy along with medication has made a big difference. I have taken steps to take back my life. Don’t get me wrong.  I have scans coming up in two weeks and the scanxiety is already starting. It’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I’ve learned various tools to help control the fear. Apps like Headspace have helped me learn to meditate. Breathing exercises like 4-7-8 I can do anytime of the day. Nighttime videos on YouTube from The Honest Guys help me sleep.

The support and information you receive on various pages and message boards like KCCure and Smart Patients are essential. You never feel alone. Lastly, I am extremely blessed to have a wonderful husband, children and friends who are not only supportive but lift me up in prayer.

I implore any providers reading my story to please ask your patients at every follow up visit about their mental health. Some of us hide it very well in the office but fall apart once outside your office. In my opinion mental health assessments should be done as standard of practice in every Oncology and Surgeons office.

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