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Patient Stories

Voice of Kidney Cancer – Charlene’s Story

My name is Charlene and I am 60 years old. Three years ago in February 2015 I had my left kidney removed along with a 4 cm tumor that was sitting on my renal vein.

My story began like everyone else but had a different ending for which I am very grateful. I scheduled an annual physical in December of 2014, because I hadn’t gone to see my doctor for three years. I was in good physical shape, ate well, took some amazing supplements that supported my health, and had low stress in my life.

Everything changed after I had my blood work done. You see, going to get that physical was a life-changer. If I had not had that blood work or seen my doctor, I might still be carrying that tumor around and things could have been so much worse.

Like so many of you, I didn’t know anything was wrong. Except for a bit of constipation and some anxiety that I was feeling for the past several months, I felt great. Life was good. But actually, my body was sending me signs. The anxiety I felt turned out to be high blood pressure due to my kidney shutting down. I just wasn’t listening to my body.

My blood work was showing very high calcium levels and so I was told to see both an endocrinologist and a nephrologist. The next thing I knew I was on the fast track for getting poked, prodded, swallowing nuclear material, and drinking mystery drinks. After all of that I was told that I had a 4 cm tumor in my left kidney, and it was probably cancer. I was stunned to say the least. I lost my dad at 60 and one of my grandfathers and grandmothers all to cancer, so I was scared. I was the gal everyone was saying that would live to 100.

I started searching for local support groups and found a wonderful Facebook group for Kidney Cancer. I also consulted a friend’s daughter who had donated a kidney and got the scoop on the surgery and what to expect.

One of the reasons I decided to share my story, is mine had a happy ending. My urologist surgeon told  me in our pre-op consultation that once or twice a year he got to tell a patient their tumor was benign.

I will never forget my first post-op appointment when I got my good news. My tumor was benign. I was elated to say the least, but I also like to believe my healthy lifestyle might have helped in my favor. I will never know, but I do know that getting a diagnosis of a renal tumor doesn’t mean you have cancer. As of this writing scientists are studying why some of us get cancer and others don’t.

Like all of you, I now wake up every day with a different regard for life and living. I only hope I can provide you with something positive about those of you and your loved ones who are told they have a tumor in their kidney.

Please take care of your body. It does matter. I always was interested in good health and I am proud to say my journey of good health has continued and last December I became a Certified Personal Trainer.

So here’s my message to all of you. Please share my story out with your friends and family on the importance of getting an annual physical. 

Reading stories over the years I realize that if something is not feeling right, it probably isn’t. I cannot stress this enough. Maybe if I had gone in earlier, I could have kept part of my kidney. I will never know.

What I do know is that life goes on. Since the operation I found another wonderful Facebook group called Onocytoma and Other Benign Renal Tumors. This group is so small, and I realize how lucky our members are. These are my people now. All of us shared the same pre-op experience of expecting cancer and just happened to come home with a different outcome.

Be grateful each and every day. Love your family. Your friends. Live a healthy and stress-free life. And pray they find a cure for this dreadful disease 

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