Lately, I have been experiencing a sense of unease, unable to pinpoint its cause. Over the course of a few years, my doctor sent me for numerous blood tests and referred me to various specialists, yet no one could determine what was happening. The situation reached a critical point when I found myself needing to close my eyes while driving, right then and there. Miraculously, I managed to make it home safely.
Recognizing that something was amiss within my body, I expressed my concerns to my doctor. This time, he ordered blood work and a CAT scan to investigate further. In February 2020, during a follow-up appointment, my primary doctor informed me that it appeared I had a kidney stone and referred me to a urologist. However, due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, my visit with the urologist took place in March 2020, coinciding with the early stages of the global health crisis.
Upon reviewing the CAT scan, my urologist delivered the unexpected news that I had a tumor. Stunned, I inquired if it was benign, hoping for a more favorable outcome. To my dismay, the urologist responded with a solemn “no.” Confused and seeking clarification, I asked, “What do you mean, no?” His response shattered my hopes as he confirmed that the tumor was malignant and cancerous. In that moment, a deafening silence enveloped my mind. Although I could see his lips moving, I struggled to register any of his words.
Overwhelmed by the devastating news, I made my way to the car and unleashed a torrent of tears. How could this be? Kidney cancer? I had always considered myself healthy, and now I was faced with this frightening diagnosis. Thoughts raced through my mind, particularly about my son. How would I break the news to him? It had only been four years since his father’s passing, and now the fear of leaving him without any parents consumed me. Panic and despair gripped my thoughts, spinning my head in a whirlwind of anguish.
After composing myself, I embarked on the drive home, desperately trying to gather my thoughts and find the right words to share with my son. We arranged a video call, and as the screen flickered to life, I summoned every ounce of positivity within me. Despite the weight of the news, I wanted to convey strength and hope to my son. With a brave smile, I mustered the courage to share the diagnosis, striving to reassure him that we would face this challenge together.
With a sense of urgency, my medical team swiftly scheduled my surgery within a mere two and a half weeks. The accelerated timeline left me with a pressing need to put my affairs in order, just in case the outcome was not in my favor. It was a daunting task, but I knew it was essential to ensure that everything was taken care of for the sake of my son.
The day of the surgery arrived, and as I stood at the entrance of the hospital, my son dropped me off. The strict protocols in place due to the pandemic meant that no visitors were allowed unless they were patients or medical professionals. It was a difficult moment, saying goodbye to my son, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to accompany me inside. We exchanged reassuring words, promising to stay connected through phone calls and video chats during my hospital stay.
Overwhelmed by fear and a profound sense of loneliness, tears streamed down my face as I waved goodbye to my son. In that heart-wrenching moment, the weight of uncertainty pressed upon me, and I couldn’t help but entertain the thought that it might be the last time I would lay eyes on him. The intensity of the emotions coursing through me was almost unbearable, as the reality of the situation sank in. The hospital doors closed behind me, separating us physically, and I felt a deep ache in my heart. The fear of the unknown loomed large, casting a shadow over my thoughts and intensifying the sense of isolation. Yet, amidst the overwhelming emotions, a flicker of hope remained. I clung to the belief that this journey, though arduous and fraught with challenges, would ultimately lead me towards healing and a brighter future. With every ounce of strength I could muster, I resolved to face the upcoming surgery with courage and resilience, knowing that the love and support of my son and loved ones would be with me every step of the way.
Prepared and mentally ready for the surgery, I found myself in the operating room. As the anesthesia took effect, the last thing I recall is the sensation of the oxygen mask being placed over my face. The next moment, I awoke in a state of confusion and distress, tears streaming down my face. For a fleeting moment, I believed I had passed away and found myself in the realm of heaven. Disoriented and overwhelmed, I grappled with the intensity of the emotions coursing through me. The pain that accompanied my awakening was excruciating, adding to my disorientation. Gradually, as my senses returned, I realized that I had just undergone kidney surgery. The constant pain served as a stark reminder of the procedure I had endured. It became evident that managing the pain would be a crucial aspect of my recovery. The medical team provided me with pain medication, which I needed to take diligently every 4-6 hours to alleviate the discomfort. Each passing hour brought a renewed appreciation for the importance of pain management in my healing process.
Gazing down at my body, I couldn’t help but notice the significant swelling in my abdomen. It was a result of the carbon dioxide that had been used during the surgery to create space between the tissues, allowing for better visibility. Six incisions adorned my abdomen, each serving a specific purpose. One was positioned in the middle, just below my breasts, while four others were scattered on the right side. The largest incision extended from my bellybutton downwards, serving as the entry point for the removal of the cancerous portion of my kidney. It was a partial right nephrectomy, a procedure aimed at treating the stage 2 cancer that had been detected.
Throughout my recovery, I remained connected to various monitoring devices, ensuring that my organs were functioning properly and that my body was healing as expected. The presence of these devices served as a constant reminder of the delicate nature of my post-surgery state. Breathing difficulties added an additional layer of complexity to my recovery journey. Thankfully, a breathing specialist visited me each day, providing necessary treatments and support to help alleviate the challenges I faced in this aspect of my healing process. Their expertise and guidance were invaluable in helping me regain control over my breathing and facilitating a smoother recovery.
My hospital stay lasted for three days, during which time I never truly saw the faces of my doctors and medical team due to the constant masking required during the pandemic. The strict protocols in place meant that no visitors were allowed, leaving me feeling frightened and isolated. As the day of my discharge arrived, my son arrived to pick me up, and I was wheeled outside to meet him. The fresh air and the sight of my son provided a glimmer of comfort amidst the uncertainty. Healing progressed at a slower pace than anticipated. Initially, I relied on a walker to aid in my mobility for a few days. However, even after leaving the hospital, I continued to experience breathing difficulties. To address this ongoing concern, I sought the expertise of a pulmonary doctor who conducted tests and provided necessary follow-ups. Over the course of a year, I diligently worked towards improving my breathing and regaining my strength, with the guidance and support of my medical team.
This unexpected journey has left an indelible mark on my life, one that I will carry with me forever. The duration of time that the cancer had been present within my body remains a mystery, but I am immensely grateful that it has been removed. It leads me to ponder whether toxic emotions may have played a role in its manifestation, although I cannot say for certain. After traversing this arduous path of battling cancer, my perspective on life has shifted. Instead of embracing the notion of taking things one day at a time, I now find solace in the concept of taking life one breath at a time. When the uncertainty of whether the next breath will come lingers, the fragility of life becomes all too apparent. Each breath becomes a precious gift, a reminder of the blessings bestowed upon me. I am filled with gratitude for every inhalation and exhalation, cherishing the simple act of breathing. It serves as a constant reminder of the fragility and preciousness of life. With each breath, I am reminded to embrace the present moment, to find gratitude in the smallest of joys, and to live each day to its fullest.