Deal With Cancer Proactively and Aggressively09 Feb 2023
Few things are scarier than cancer. When one adds the element of uncertainty, as in “that tumor might be cancerous, we’re not 100% sure”, the emotion of fear is amplified. Let me explain.
Big Tumor With Zero Symptoms
In mid 2022, my primary care physicians reviewed the results of a recent blood test. Everything looked normal except for one line item called creatinine. A normal creatinine level should fall below 1.4 milligrams per deciliter. Mine was 1.5 mg/dL, slightly above the recommended maximum. My physicians were concerned, so they referred me to a kidney specialist. The kidney specialist ordered an MRI, which revealed a large, baseball-sized mass on my right kidney.
Creatinine vs Creatine
From what I’ve learned, creatinine and creatine are similar in spelling and related to human metabolism. I do not fully understand the relationship. That discussion is beyond the scope of this post.
Gathering Many Opinions
I spent the last four months of 2022 speaking with multiple kidney specialists in and around Phoenix. Six opinions in all. Every specialist recommended the same strategy for dealing with this threat: Radical nephrectomy. Removing the kidney and the tumor all at once.
By nature, I ask tons of questions and I am thankful to all of the specialists for giving me answers. One specialist was an especially clear communicator. All of the others talked about “a growth on my kidney”, but this specialist was the first to use the words “tumor” and “cancer” in reference to my case.
When I asked him to elaborate, he said, “We won’t know for certain that it’s cancer until we remove it. However, every time I’ve seen something like this in the past, it turned out to be cancer.”
It is refreshing to deal with someone who speaks in clear, direct language. When we have clarity around an issue, we can deal with it directly and aggressively.
That clear-language specialist was part of the team that I chose to perform my kidney surgery. That team of physicians, PAs, nurses, and support members did an amazing job. I am forever grateful to them.
Kidney in a Jar?
Some of you will think I’m nuts for this request: I asked the team to preserve my kidney in a jar so that I could sit it on my desk as a reminder of my mortality. Cool sourvenir, right? Nope. Turns out that the surgical team needed to send the kidney/tumor to the pathology department to test for cancer. This process involves cutting the mass into thin slices (like bologna) and carefully inspecting the slices.
On the morning of Jan 31, 2023, the surgical team removed my right kidney along with the attached baseball-sized tumor. I spent the night in the hospital and returned home on Feb 1, 2023.
The surgical team sent my kidney + tumor to the pathology department for analysis. Key findings from the pathology report:
- The news: The tumor was cancerous.
- The good news: The cancer was contained within the tumor. No spreading beyond the kidney or to other parts of my body.
Bottom line: We caught the cancer in time. Praise God for medical science and for the men and women who practice this art.
Overflowing With Gratitude
My brother travelled to Phoenix to be with me during and after my surgery. I got a little choked up while typing that last sentence. My cousins here in Arizona were here for me. My friends from Connecticut, Washington, and Illinois flew to Arizona to care for their friend. While I spoke to one friend by phone to give him news of the diagnosis, he sent a text message to his pastor and the entire congregation prayed for me in that instant. Friends and business partners in Arizona, Tennessee, California, and Texas are rallying around to keep my spirits up and to encourage me through this journey.
What is love? What is friendship? My definitions for both words are vastly expanded now that I’ve been through this experience.
Human Intelligence + Robotic Motor Skills
Nine days ago I was spread out on an operating table while a Davinci Surgical Robot pressed medical instruments into my open belly. The nephrectomy required decades of human medical intelligence blended with the microscopic motor skills of a robot. What a winning combination!
Nine days later, I am walking around Arizona with a robust appetite and a heart full of gratitude.
Serious Recommendation for You
I am not a medical professional and I am not qualified to give medical advice. I only offer this recommendation: Get your creatinine level checked.
Without the creatinine test, I never would have known about the mass on my kidney. And it was the size of a baseball. I had zero discomfort and zero physical symptoms right up to the morning of my surgery. Here’s the data that my physicians gathered to make the surgery recommendation:
- The high creatinine level told my physicians that something was wrong.
- The MRI showed the abnormal baseball-shaped growth on my right kidney.
Bottom line: Get the bloodwork done, and have the results interpreted by specialists in each area of concern.
My physicians have advised me to walk as part of my recovery, so I walk at least two miles every day. After the 4-week recovery period, I will begin training for distance races this year. My plan is to complete the following distance races in this order in 2023:
- Half Marathon
- Full Marathon
Yes, I will complete another marathon in 2023. Perhaps you and I will run together!