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Patient Stories

Voice of Kidney Cancer – Denise Thompson

Voice of Kidney Cancer – Denise Thompson

It’s interesting and bonding to read about similar and difficult experiences we are all having during this pandemic. But the hardest thing for me right now is my own mindset.

I guess I didn’t come into the pandemic with great reserves of strength. Last July, we moved three to four hours away from our older son and his daughters, who are now in college, as well as our own daughter, in order to be here and watch our younger son’s two little girls grow up. 

I still think it was a good thing to do. But moving is hard, especially since it also took us further from our siblings who, like us, are getting older. I am missing people.

Then came my cancer diagnosis in October. I don’t need to explain anyone who has gone through that how hard it was to hear those words.

On January 31, my mother passed away. She had a very hard time this last year or two and I was her principal caregiver. I saw so much suffering and there was so little I could do.

On March 3rd, I had a partial nephrectomy. My relief when post-op biopsy surprised us by being BENIGN did not take anything away from the months & weeks & days (& nights) I spent coming to terms with all that a diagnosis of cancer means.

Since I self-isolated one week prior to surgery to avoid “bugs” that might interfere, I am now starting week three of isolation. Two weeks post-operation, I’m no longer dealing with the consuming pain from the surgery. 

But now there is space in my mind and heart this week for the blues to settle. And I am still trying so hard to call it the “blues” & not depression.

My mind is fighting me so hard. How inexcusable is it to have such good news upon biopsy (no cancer!), and then be so ungrateful as to sink immediately into what has to be depression. 

Depression is a hard word for me. After a very bad childhood, I got myself to college, married my college sweetheart, had our beautiful family, and lived a happy grateful life until suddenly, one year in my forties, I started having panic attacks and the big “D” of depression settled over me. Childhood wasn’t through with me yet!

Long story short is that for at least a year in my forties, I fought anxiety & depression just as hard as I’ve spent the last six months gearing up for the “cancer fight.” And I won back then. I really did. 

After starting a low-dose antidepressant and working through six months of counseling, I had raked through that childhood and learned to incorporate it INTO my current life instead of pretending it didn’t exist, thus establishing control over it and taking away its ability to get a foothold in an attempt to destroy everything beautiful.

So here I am, 20 years later. Still married to my college sweetheart, still with a beautiful family (only doubled now), and once again fighting those same old feelings of fear and powerlessness because while I was “out” processing cancer, my mother’s death, missing my home, and recovering from major surgery, a pandemic has settled over all of it. I am feeling guilty again for not being strong enough. 

I am working hard trying to get out in front of all this. And I will. I still have strength. I am a Christian, which is a never-ending source of strength. I often rebuild strength by helping others, but my doc says I’m still very compromised from surgery. And I truly am still very tired. But these are blue days.

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