Clive shares his story of being diagnosed with a small renal mass while undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. Together with his doctors, Clive decided that active surveillance was preferable to immediate surgery.
In January of 2020 my wife, Michelle, suggested that I take up painting to ease my mind. Michelle has been involved with acrylic painting as a hobby for many years. I decided her suggestion was a good one but I wanted to go in a different direction. So it was that I came home from the store with watercolour paints and paper.
I have to admit that my initial attempts at painting were crude. The results were far from inspiring. I discovered that watercolour has a mind of its own. It can be a challenge but the process can be very rewarding. When you are absorbed in a painting your mind is totally distracted from everything else, and in my case distraction from the diagnosis, the treatments, the medical appointments, the anxiety and the uncertainties associated with cancer.
The summer of 2019 began like most other summers since I retired. In July it reached the height of excitement when I met my half-sister in person for the very first time. She spent three weeks with us here in Canada and we had an amazing time. The previous year I had found her and my three half-brothers through online searches. They all live in the same city in the UK where I was born.
Within a few weeks Michelle and I went from that mountain top experience into a deep dark valley. In late August my urologist informed me of the results of my prostate biopsy. Cancer, prostate cancer, high risk (only 15% are considered high risk). A series of scans were ordered including a CT scan. I decided not to have surgery. In October I began 20 sessions of radiation treatment and I started on Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT; aka hormone therapy). I also changed my diet to a plant based way of eating and began an exercise program, the latter aimed at managing the side effects of hormone therapy.
A few days after starting the radiation treatment for the prostate cancer, my radiation oncologist informed me that a CT Scan had revealed something on my left kidney. In mid November 2019 I had another CT Scan, this time focusing on my kidneys. In December my radiation oncologist informed me that the relatively small mass on my left kidney was 90% likely to be kidney cancer. I was referred to a urologist specializing in kidney problems.
Near the end of January 2020 I met with the urologist for the first time. He confirmed that the 2 cm mass was likely Renal Cell Carcinoma. (RCC). Because the tumor is in a difficult location near the pancreas and blood vessels he did not think it would be possible to do a laparoscopic partial nephrectomy. For the same reasons ablation was not an option. The surgical options were open partial nephrectomy or laparoscopic full nephrectomy. Since the mass was still small and I was still being treated for prostate cancer, we decided that Active Surveillance was the way to proceed at that time.
A follow-up CT Scan for the kidney mass was scheduled and I met again with the urologist in September 2020 to review the results. The scan revealed that the mass was now 2.5cm. There was also an indeterminate lesion on my right kidney which is believed to be a cyst. Because of the uncertainty of what is going on with the right kidney, I realized that having a partial nephrectomy was really important for the mass on my left kidney. My doctor and I agreed to continue with Active Surveillance, knowing that surgery was likely going to be needed.
So here we are in March 2021 and I am waiting to meet with my urologist to review the results from another CT Scan. I have settled in my mind that I want to proceed with the surgery.
Needless to say, the past 18 months have been filled with overwhelming emotions and anxiety. Thankfully, Michelle and I believe that God has a plan for our lives and that no matter the outcome we are in a win-win situation, with extended years here on earth or an eternity with the Lord.
We are thankful for our two children, their spouses and our five grandchildren. We are thankful for our family and friends who continue to pray for us and support us. We are thankful for the doctors, medical staff and medical facilities. We are thankful for the support groups in our city and online. We are thankful that we can still enjoy God’s creation in so many ways.
The journey goes on. My hormone therapy for the prostate cancer ends this month after a total of 18 months. The focus going forward will be on treatment for the kidney tumor interspersed with follow-ups for the prostate cancer.
Oh yes, what about the painting? I am so thankful that I listened to Michelle’s urging to get into it. A spare bedroom has now become our studio. I have been able to give away some of my artwork to friends and a few cancer survivors. I hope it brings some joy into the lives of others as it does into mine.