Lightning Strikes Again

Would you imagine for a minute if lightning were to hit you, what that jolt would do to you. Then imagine if it happened twice! I’m not talking about lightning striking in the literal sense, but we often have events that happen in our life that really feels like such an immense jolt. It makes us scratch our head and think what in the world just happened to me and why? The events that have happened in my own life are related to having that evil enemy we call cancer strike me not just once, but twice. It was bad enough when I learned that I had Stage IV thyroid cancer and the complicating journey I’ve had with that, but then was I was told that I had another possible cancer, that pill was a bit hard to swallow.

Here we go with events that led up to learning about my second cancer journey. Going back to January of this year, is where it all started. I work with an awesome group of special needs students and as you can imagine in any school environment when one kid gets sick, they all do. It spread like wildfire this year and of course I succumbed to it as well. For me, the minute I get the slightest cough it turns ugly into a full-blown asthma exacerbation.  This went on for the next three months. My immunology doctor and I both could not understand why it was so bad this year. So, she recommended that I have a chest CT to investigate further whether there was some other underlying cause. One never wants to hear those words…. I have good news and bad news, but that was the phone call I received from her the following day after that scan. The good news was that the scan didn’t show any underlying reason why my asthma was so bad this year. Unfortunately, my doctor said that it was just a bad season for my asthma to flare up. Incidentally, the scan showed a large tumor on my left kidney. She suggested further testing. So, one ultrasound and another CT scan later, it was still highly suspicious of renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer), but they could not differentiate if it could also be a benign tumor. This all seemed so surreal, I thought I must be dreaming or something….is this really happening to me? It was a bit hard to digest.

Like always, my doctors at the university took swift action getting me in quickly to quite an awesome urology surgeon, Dr. Nicholas Cost. He explained to me that because the tumor is so large he highly recommends that we remove the kidney. He said the other option would be to just watch and wait to see if it grows further. I’m thinking to myself oh hell no! I’ve already been through the watch and wait with the thyroid cancer. I want this thing out before it has the chance to grow and cause even more problems!  I scheduled the surgery about a month later so that I could complete the school year out. In addition, we had already made plans for my husband to be home from overseas at about the same time.

The surgery went as my surgeon and his team thought it would and my left kidney was removed successfully. I was in the hospital for two days and I could have been discharged the next day, but my oxygen levels kept dropping. Thankfully, it resolved itself quickly. I was glad to get discharged as it seems that you can never get any real rest when you are in the hospital as they are always checking your vitals so often. I understand the importance of that, but sometimes you just want to say enough already! It was kind of a rough ride home from the hospital as we live ninety minutes away. I felt every tiny little bump, but utilizing some pillows helped to alleviate the jerks I felt from each little bump. At least I was riding home in style with my husbands new ride, he had just bought a new 2017 Ford Mustang convertible. At first he had the top down, but that lasted about a minute. It was easier having the top down to get me in the car, but I didn’t feel like getting wind whipped; nevertheless, I was able to endure that ride and grateful to get back home and to be with my family.

Testing after removal of the kidney did in fact show that it was kidney cancer, but the good news is that it was caught early and so the only treatment needed is the removal of the kidney. No radiation or chemo is required!! I am truly full of so much gratitude for the amazing team of doctors I have at the University of Colorado Hospital. I have been blessed beyond measure to have such a stellar team of elite professionals, who truly care about their patients. If my doctors had not been so proactive we would have never known about the kidney cancer. I’m truly lucky and grateful it was caught early. Expressing thanks just doesn’t ever seem to be enough, but I hope that each and every one of those doctors know just how much they are appreciated!

I never imagined that lightning would strike me twice! However, I have witnessed and experienced many tender mercies over the course of my cancer journey. Although, the road has not been an easy one for me, I’ve learned so many valuable life lessons along the way. As my friend Rob, who unfortunately lost his cancer battle said to me many times “we need to embrace our sufferings and adversities if we can, as we will learn the most about ourselves during that time…… we are walking through the refiner’s fire to make us into something better.” His words have always stuck by me and there is such truth to them. I miss that man so much! What I wouldn’t give to have just five more minutes to talk with him.

I was recently reminded of how many of us throughout our lives will be asked to climb mountains and some days it may feel as though we may never reach that top of the mountain. We may ask ourselves how is it possible that I can do this? Nevertheless, it is something which is attainable if we exercise a little bit of faith, patience and belief in ourselves that we can do hard things. I know that this is just one of the many mountains that I have been asked to climb and I am sure it is not the last. Although, life may sometimes knock you down, what matters most is that we keep getting back up. We must make that choice to never give up, to keep going even though it is hard. What can define us is how well we rise when we are knocked down.

A very good friend of mine, who also happens to be the surgeon that took out my thyroid has always given me those reminders frequently that every day is a gift. It is something that took me getting cancer to truly understand just how precious life really is and that tomorrow is never promised. How we choose to live out the remainder of our days is up to us. How do we want to be remembered? What is our legacy going to be? I want to be known as that person that didn’t let bad circumstances such as cancer effect my outlook on life. Also, it is to educate others on the importance to pay attention to your body and health. Learn as much as you can about your disease and pay it forward by passing the knowledge you have on to others. Most important of all, tell the people in your life just what they mean to you, life is just too short not to. Don’t let cancer or anything else that comes in your life drag you down. Grab life by the horns and don’t let anything hold you back. Be your best self. A great and simple truth I have learned is to appreciate every precious moment and live as though today is your last!

I will close this post with the following song which has such a great message that we can rise above anything that comes our way it just takes a little bit of faith!

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