My days are full. My expectations high. My excitement for new adventures palpable. I am alive – with stage 3 kidney cancer.
When KCCure asked me to tell my cancer story, the inclination was to relate how scary it is. The pain. The surgery. The recovery. The drugs. How much it sucks to have cancer. Everyone who has been unfortunate enough to be diagnosed knows this. I’ll spare you those details. There is no doubt that cancer changed my life, completely. What I’m learning, however, is that there is some good.
Recovering from the impact of a radical nephrectomy, I found myself falling into the same old routine. This time, it wouldn’t do. I had to shake it up. If I was different, I had to do “different.” I gave notice at my house rental. I sold my car. I bought a cargo van. I left Bend, Oregon.
I now find myself in Loveland, CO, house sitting for the month. Choosing this location was not completely by chance. My son lives in Denver. A number of cancer forum members I’ve connected with live in the area. I came to see him, to meet them. My plan is to mix a bit of van camping with long-term house sitting, picking and choosing my way around the country. I have confirmed house sits in Ashland, Oregon, Forestville, CA, and Carmel, CA. I have a trip to New Hampshire coming up – a visit with my daughter and two grandchildren. I would not have done any of this, if not for cancer.
The forum members I mention I belong to is SmartPatients.com. I call them Smarties. This forum got me through my worst. I whined. I complained. I felt sorry for myself. Members here got me through it. They are family. When we meet it’s as if we’ve known each other a long time. They are my present and my future. We have lunches scheduled here in Colorado. A future visit to New Jersey, to see my mom, has Smarties looking for a restaurant.
Feeling the need to give back to this community, I produced an annual calendar with thirteen of my favorite images. I am a photographer, and these pictures sat in the archives for years, looking for a purpose. It’s been found. The money raised went back to six caregivers at Smartpatients. It was meant to be “mad money,” used for self enjoyment, something foreign to a caregiver. I started a blog, kjsperl.wixsite.com/photoman. I chronicle my journey with cancer, house sitting, and van camping. It is, as the blog says, my new normal.
My days are full. My expectations high. My excitement for new adventures palpable. I am alive – with cancer. Don’t assume all days are good. They aren’t. I live with guilt, fear, and sadness for others lost. As a stage 3 survivor, stage 4 always looms. As for my status, a post-op CT scan returned N.E.D. status. I’m good for six months before “scanxiety” returns.
Until then, I’ll enjoy my new normal. Cancer changed my life. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kevin was diagnosed with Stage 3 RCC in his left Kidney on July 28, 2018. He had surgery, a radical nephrectomy, at OHSU in Portland, OR. on September 17, 2018. His three-month post-op CT scan showed no evidence of tumors and, for the moment, enjoys N.E.D. status. Kevin is 65 years old and an age-group competitive triathlete. He now travels the country in his van, N.E.D., house sitting, visiting cancer survivors, and photographing vistas as he sees them. He blogs about his journey at kjsperl.wixsite.com/photoman.