Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Low-Down on My Cancer

So Jen, are you SURE you have cancer?

I have a tumor. A tumor with a blood supply that the surgeon says looks to him like a malignant cancer. There IS a chance, however small, that upon removal we will find out that the tumor is benign. However, the course of treatment is the same and there is no way to determine if it is benign or malignant prior to removal so the point at this time is moot. Kidney Tumor = Removal. Benign vs Malignant simply affects my chances of recurrence long term.

So Jen, what type of cancer do you have?

Primary kidney cancer, also called renal cell cancer, refers to a malignant tumor that originates in the kidney. The most common type of kidney cancer in adults is renal cell carcinoma, which arises from the small tubes within the kidneys.

So Jen, why did you get it?

Although no one knows all the causes of kidney cancer, the following factors can also increase the risk of developing this disease:

  • being male
  • being obese
  • being over the age of 60
  • smoking
  • high blood pressure
  • a genetic risk
  • being on dialysis
  • being an iron worker

In other words I HAVE NO FREAKIN' IDEA WHY I GOT IT. Read that list - I don't have a single risk factor on it. Last week, the transplant team told me I was in "ideal health". Before this news, my blood pressure was (and I quote!) "that of a child". In other words finding out I had cancer in my kidney's was the shock of the doctor's life, and mine as well.

So Jen, what are the treatment options?

There are a couple of options. I am choosing, so far at least, to opt for a partial nephrectomy. Partial nephrectomies are relatively new in the treatment of kidney cancer, and what it means is that I will have the tumor, and surrounding kidney tissue removed but the majority of my kidney will remain. The cancer is in my left kidney, which also happens to be my STRONG kidney (oh the things you find out when you are donating a kidney!) and because there is a chance of recurrence I want to retain as much kidney function as I can for future options, if they are needed. At this point in time it is assumed that I will not need follow up chemo unless the tumor turns out to be severely aggressive, which is highly doubtful, although possible. Surgery will be sooner rather than later - what that means in reality I have no idea.

So Jen, are you going to live?

Hell yes. Am I freaking out? Yes. Have I have written my own eulogy, planned the music and got myself dead and buried? Yes, admittedly I have had those moments. For goodness sakes its only been 5 days allow me to freak out a little! Google slays me at the moment and has brought on more than one panic attack. I am praying for a "peace that passes all understanding" right now. This cancer IS curable through surgery. My chances of survival at the 5 year mark are, as far as I can tell, above 90%. The overall chances (since I know you are all going to go off and google) is around 45% with this type of cancer HOWEVER I am young, healthy, with a VERY early diagnosis. The odds are in my favor.

More than ANY of that though, I have 4 little boys that desperately need me. I will fight and do anything - absolutely ANYTHING to beat this.

Ah Jen, is this going to turn into a cancer blog? What happened to your musings on adoption and life as a multi-racial family?

Yes, cancer is now part of my life - and the lives of my children. But I know (Thanks Judy) that by no means am I the only adoptive parent dealing with her own mortality, while trying to be there for her children who have faced way too much loss in their lives already. Telling my boys was the hardest part of this journey. Maybe, in someway it will help someone else. Right now I have to figure out how to support my kids and promise to them that despite the fact they have lost two mothers before me, that I intend to be here a long, long time.

So Jen, how can we help?

This is where I want to say thank you to my friends and family; Meals, flowers, thoughts, prayers, holding my hand, crying with me - or crying for me because I am not shedding very many tears right now. To those of you who commented or sent emails, I thank you. To those of you who have added me, my dad, my family to your prayer chains, I thank you. I suppose the chance to be heard through this means the most. If you still choose to read, despite the fact I might get obsessed and boring, if you give my kids an extra hug, or drop off a casserole, listen to Shel's talk it through. To understand that right now, my life is absolutely insane and I might forget the odd birthday or cry unexpectedly and to also understand that my life must go on, and if I seem "happy" that's ok too.

So Jen, how are you feeling?

I am OK. I am overwhelmed by how this has affected those whom I love, and whom love me. Go read here This is written by a long time, best, sister friend from my youth who faces a struggle WAY bigger than mine, and yet she cries for me. I am scared for my husband and my boys. I am scared for me. I worry about my sister and my dad. I now understand however what hearing that "C" word does. The clock stopping, the world shrinking, the overwhelming horror that overtakes your life. Mostly though, I am trying to remember I Am Blessed. It was found. I will be free of it. Why me? Why am I so lucky?

So Jen, what about your cousin?

She is currently off the transplant list right now due to another health complication but she will need a kidney. Soon. I trust that she is in God's hand but would ask that you pray for her too. Please. I don't know why I was asked to walk this journey that in turn gave her and her family some hope, only to have it shattered in a way we could have never anticipated for both of us. Am I thankful for myself? Not yet. Just pray for her.


Brandy said...

I just KNEW you were a 60 year old obese male with an iron working I have proof!

Stay strong - you're gonna be fine.

Jim said...

What your friend Brandy said... 8~)

Seriously, you'll get through this and unlike the good old days, your extended "family" is all "out here" standing beside you.

Vanessa said...

Keep the faith and know many of us out here in blogland are praying for you and your family!!

Anonymous said...

Does iron working include cooking anything out of a cast iron skillet or ironing clothes? :)

Much love! You will be fine!


Anonymous said...

Jen, even in your own personal hell, you are amazing... YOU are here for your cyber family, they want to hear what you have to say, so you say it, simple as that. In return, you get a million extra prayers... thanks, you guys for your support for my very good "real time" friend, Jen. She needs you as much as she needs hands on. Jen, you are strong and able and you will never be alone. Love you!

Judy said...

The questions, the well-meaning but annoying comments, all of it -- well, I hate to say it, but it's just beginning. I'm sure you know that. People do mean well.

The children -- in my case, child -- yes, that's the most difficult part. We sure didn't adopt these children thinking that we wouldn't be around to raise them.

I am grateful that your cancer was caught at an early stage and that surgery will probably be all that's required as far as treatment . . . and I understand all the worries regardless. Entirely normal.

Jen, my thoughts and my prayers go with you as you start down this journey, certainly one that you never ever would have chosen.

God has said,
"Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5


skirbo said...


I'll write (and update for myself, too) soon, but for now, know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. I'm so glad they found this early and so very sorry that you are having to go through it at all.

Much love,

Titus 2 Thandi said...

I somehow doubt ANYTHING you'd write would ever be boring.Thanky ou for the truth-about adoption and about the beginning of your next, more frightening battle.I know you'll do everything you can, we'll keep praying-nothing else we can do all the way over here!

Dawn said...

Just catching up with my girl...

Hold fast to hope. Praying for you and your family.


One Busy Momma said...

Jen... so sorry for this diagnosis... but... it was caught early... and you are otherwise you are going to be around for your boys until they have little ones of their own (which should be a long ways off!)

You are such a strong woman... Cancer has NO chance battling against ya!

*hugs* to you and your family!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Jen, I am here. I meant to comment the other day but I had Baby Niagara Nose things and such and I flaked. I'm sorry.

Listen, my mom had kidney cancer YEARS ago and she lost the kidney but she has been doing well. Kidney cancer is one of the most treatable.

As to my mom, yes, she has the cancer on her skull now, but that's 15 years later and she is responding well to treatment, and ALSO, our family is riddled with cancer and we have the mutated gene that is a carrier. Most all of us.

Your history doesn't indicate that.

So I won't say "don't worry" or anything, because that's just dumb. But I will say - if you need an ear, if you need a prayer, if you need a shoulder, dear Jen, I am with you.

Sending much love your way.

Callie said...

Here from the LFCA to lend my support and just tell you how sorry I am that you're facing this. I know all too well the reverberations that the "C" word causes - both in my life as well as that of my parents.

Please know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

birthmothertalks said...

Stay strong. You can beat this.

battynurse said...

Here from LFCA. I'm so sorry about this diagnosis. Hoping that it ends up being benign and that your cousin will improve also.

anonkidneydonor said...

Hi Jen - thanks for the invite to this blog - am happy to add to the wealth of people wishing you well and holding you in their hearts. Even though we're all guaranteed to die some day, having to face mortality head-on, dealing with the shock of an unexpected diagnosis, having to let go of plans to donate your kidney, facing the C word and all the scary stuff around cancer, facing surgery, facing the unknown, being afraid of what is going to happen for you and your family, having to deal with the medical system and the vulnerability of being a patient -- that's a whole different thing than the intellectual understanding that all of us will die some day. There's no one way that people face this or experience it, but you've got a lot of people accompanying you as you go through this, and that is all that any of us can ask for. Thank you for sharing what it is like: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Through sharing our lives together, our lives are made infinitely richer. Much appreciation for the effort you're making to honestly face this and to talk with all of us about what that is like for you and your family.

twondra said...

Here from LFCA. My thoughts are with you and your family. (((HUGS)))

Anonymous said...

You make me still manage to find humour, think of others and answer the obvious questions you know you will be asked all in one breath...or quick verse...well done you!

Queenie. . . said...

I am wishing you that peace that passes all understanding, praying that the evil tumor is benign, and thinking you should put a Paypal link up on your blog, because lots of us would be happy to drop off casseroles, but your porch is a little too far to reach.

Regina said...

Oh Jen I'm just back from a week vacation with the family and am catching up. I'm so here with you for whatever. Wish I could send a casserole but don't think it would do well in the mail from Philly to Canada but I can share my favorite recipes :) Seriously, we've been cyberbuds for a long time m'dear and I care very much. Whatever I can do, you've got it.


Anonymous said...

Ugh, I am such a boob that hasn't kept up on reading my blogs!!! But now that I'm caught up, my prayers will be with you and your family. (((((hugs)))))