The Pain

 Blissful sleep.  Dreams; where anything can happen.  On the edge of reality, but not wanting to let go. Time to wake up, but not wanting to leave the bliss.  Pain!  Wait, I never have pain in dreams.  What is this about?  More pain!!  There it is again and it really hurts!  More awake now.  The pain intensifies.  I open my eyes, but the pain is still there.   I can’t escape the pain.  I can’t have pain; I have to go to work.  As I move out of bed and make my way to the shower, the pain is so intense, it is difficult to move.  The shower and getting dressed was laborious due to the pain.  Ready to go, but the intense pain forces me back on the bed.   Jennifer wakes up and is curious as to why I am still here.  I told her about the intense pain in my abdomen. 

  In the emergency room they do a CT Scan to find out what is happening.  As I wait with Jennifer, the Doctor walks in and says: “We found a kidney stone in your right kidney.  It should pass with no problems.  Oh, by the way, there is a mass on your left kidney; you might want to get that checked out”   As the Doctor walks away, Jennifer and I look at each other in disbelief to what we just heard. The nurse offered me morphine, but I refused since the pain was now gone. 

  I made an appointment with an urologist who prescribes another CT Scan, this time with contrast.  The contrast gives a better definition to what the scan will see.  I return for another appointment with the Urologist to find out the latest results.  The Urologist calls Jennifer and me to his office.  This can’t be good since he could have talked with us in the exam room.  The Doctor has a still image of the scan on a large monitor.  He points out what they found, but it looks like clouds to me.  I have to take his word for it.  The Doctor said this mass has a 90 percent chance that it is cancer, but we will wait six months, do another scan to gauge the growth progress.

Jennifer and I left the Doctor’s office; we both had concerns with what we were just told.   I talked it over with friends I knew I could confide in and Jennifer did the same.  The consensus was unanimous; you have to do something else other than wait six months. 

I contacted a long time friend who happens to work at MD Anderson as an Anesthesiologist.   His response was, “…. You need to go to MD Anderson immediately.  What we see with a lot of cancers is mismanagement at diagnosis”.  He told me who he would recommend for me to see for RCC (Renal Cell Carcinoma – Kidney Cancer) I made the appointment and was at MD Anderson within a week.  The Doctor scheduled surgery for three weeks later. 

Those three weeks of waiting were surreal for me.  I actually had cancer, a time bomb in my body.  It would be easy to ignore since there was no pain, no physical evidence that I could perceive, but the consequence would be deadly.

The Surgery

The day of surgery had arrived.  I was scheduled to check in at 10:00 am to be prepared for surgery.   My Parents wanted to go with Jennifer and me mainly to be with Jennifer through the day.   I had requested that my good friend be my anesthesiologist for this surgery.  It was comforting to me to see a familiar face as I was prepared then wheeled into the surgery suite.  The plan for this surgery was traditional since the mass was too close to the urethral tube to use robotics.  The Doctor did not want to risk damage to the tube and also wanted to be able to see firsthand (without robotic cameras) what everything looked like.  The surgery lasted about an hour and half.  From my perspective it was only a moment before I woke up in recovery.  When I woke up, I was in tremendous pain as the staff was switching me from surgery configuration to recovery configuration.  I told my old friend, the anesthesiologist, that there was a lot of pain. He responded, “You have your button, use it when you have pain”.  This button would inject morphine into my IV.  I could push it all I wanted, but it would only inject the drug once every 20 minutes.  Jennifer later told me that when she first saw me after surgery that I did not stop pushing the button. 

My perspective of being in recovery was maybe an hour or so, but in reality, I was in recovery for over six hours.   I was wheeled to my room that was to be home for the next few days.  Jennifer rarely left that room and was there to help me with anything I needed. 

The Doctor told Jennifer that they had removed the mass with clear margins and were confident that everything was out.  The biopsy at this point was not complete so it would be about a week before confirming the mass was indeed cancer. 

I remember clearly the phone conversation when the biopsy came back as positive for cancer.  I had indeed had Renal Cell Carcinoma – Kidney Cancer.  I was now a Cancer Survivor!