A Quiet Battle
by Nancy Rodney
December 13, 2007, will be an emotional day for me. That’s the day when I will walk out of my surgeon’s office for the last time. That’s the day when I will officially be released from my annual checkups. What my doctor is saying by releasing me from his care is that he has total confidence in my continued good health. He is a man whom I have trusted with my life, and I have confidence in him. And in myself.
I’m a cancer survivor of a cancer that is not as common as some. I’m a 54-year-old woman who survived kidney cancer. Until my diagnosis, I would have described myself as a health nut. I eat well, take vitamins, don’t smoke, and exercise fairly regularly. I never get sick – no colds, no flu, and my blood pressure is great.
When my family physician called with the results of my CAT scan and wanted me to immediately see a specialist, it was a little unnerving. When he told me he would make the appointment himself, I didn’t like the urgency of it at all. He made an appointment for the next day, and I picked up a copy of my CAT scan report on my way home from work.
I needed to focus on my recovery.
Reading that report was one of the hardest parts of my entire experience. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I suppose there are many emotional stages one goes through when one is diagnosed with cancer. After the initial shock came denial. It took four specialists and an MRI to finally make me accept the diagnosis. Because the tumor was situated in the middle of my kidney, the specialists all said the same thing. The entire kidney would have to be removed.
Once I finally accepted the diagnosis, I went into a quiet battle mode. The one thing I never did throughout the entire ordeal was break down and cry. I felt there would be time for that later, once I was cured. At the time, I needed to focus on my recovery. I needed to stay calm and centered. I needed to research my disease and my options. I needed to make intelligent choices.
That summer, I felt as though I were living in a suspended state. I was diagnosed in May and didn’t have my surgery until August. That can seem like an eternity to wait and wonder about your uncertain future. Yet, that period was one of the most peaceful times of my life. My own needs became the focus of my world. For me, this was one of the best choices I made.
I filled my weekends with positive activities that I enjoyed: gardening, attending an herb festival, prowling around at estate sales, and doing little craft projects. I knew these things were all diversions, but I enjoyed them just the same. I surrounded myself with positive people, and I was the most positive of all. Never once did I doubt my fate. Having done my research and chosen a doctor and hospital I was confident in, I knew I would pull through the surgery and the cancer just fine.
And I have. I was fortunate in many ways. The cancer was caught early, before it had a chance to spread. I’m healthy and have an excellent remaining kidney. I’m an optimist who is very strong-willed (or stubborn, depending on whom you ask). And lastly, I was able to have laparoscopic surgery, which shortened my recovery time and left me with only three very small scars.
Once a year, on the morning before I see Dr. Uzzo, I step out of the shower and look at the scars, as I know he will do later that day. On December 13, we will both look at them for the last time, we’ll say goodbye, and I will go on with this wonderful life I have fought so hard to keep.
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This article was originally published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, November/December 2007.