Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The story begins... (Cancer, are you kidneying me?)

Background - health and fitness were the name of the game

I'm 34; a mother, wife, daughter, friend, event planner and all round positive and happy person.

Back in March my husband and I made radical changes to our lifestyles, focussing on healthy living, clean eating and planned to compete in our first body building / women's fitness contest together next year.

It was an exciting time focussing on being in the best shape and health of our lives, which we loved to do together as a family especially with an enthusiastic and active 4 year old who only wants to be on his bike.

Between awesome weight lifting sessions with my husband (who I will call Mr V), building up my stamina for running and feeling good about our families eating choices, I had never felt better, or healthier.

A Crazy Summer - and a possible cancer patient caring for a terminal cancer patient

Since June our family has been "on the go" and we were ready for a busy and hectic summer filled with work travel, our first family vacation and other trips.

Throw into the mix a very unexpected phone call from Gran telling us that she had terminal cancer.  That was a shocker and I flew over with my son to care for her before my amazing mum came over to care for her in her final week.  I was not prepared for what awaited me at Gran's - organising and administering morphine and various cancer medications 5 x a day, making sure Gran was comfortable and happy, greeting the very many beloved friends and family who came to visit, helping in her "final days planning" (including everything from making sure she felt happy about her meetings with the undertakers, lawyers etc.) and ensuring she was eating and drinking enough.  It was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I have done.  Looking back now it seems that life has a sense of humor having a terminally ill cancer patent be cared for by another person who as it seems has cancer.

The diagnosis and the quickest turn around of events

I was feeling healthy and great.  It wasn't until on our family vacation that I felt a lump the size of a fist on the right hand side of my naval, had a sort of rumbling in my stomach and the occasional dull or sharp pain, which I put down to the food I had been consuming on our vacation (as we decided to "let loose" while we were away and were eating foods we normally didn't eat at home).  This combined with very light menstrual periods for the last 2 months made me think that a trip to the Dr was in order.  Apart from the above I had none of the other usual symptoms.

When we got home I could still feel the mass in my stomach so went to the Dr who referred me to the hospital for a stomach echo.

Monday 5 August is one I will never forget.  One day before I was scheduled to leave for another trip, sunny and warm I made my way to the hospital under orders of having an empty stomach but full bladder for the echo.   The specialist examined my stomach and could see the mass but couldn't be sure what it was.  I told her I was flying out the next day for the week and would like to have the results ASAP if possible.  Let me tell you the team and the hospital have been (and are) brilliant.  She called in her colleague to check the scan who said he wanted me to have a CT Scan to view the mass further.  Thoughts came to my mind as of course my dreaded fear, just having lost Gran to cancer, was just that.  They told me not to stress and that they wanted to have everything checked ASAP especially as I was scheduled to be out of the country for the rest of the week.

So off I went to get my bloods checked before the CT Scan, as they have to ensure your body can cope with the dye they use.  The CT Scan experience was unreal.  I was lying there just thinking, "What is happening, am I really having dye injected in me and getting a CT Scan?"  I won't forget the taste and feel of the dye running through me either.  Weird just weird.

After the CT Scan I had to see the Urologist who examined me and after 5 minutes of being in his office received a call that gave him the results of my CT Scan.  Time stood still let me tell you.  His expression changed and then those dreaded words, "I'm afraid it's bad news".  I thought, 'Here we go, bring it on!'  Yes, they found a mass (nicer word for tumor) which they think is kidney cancer as a few of my lymph nodes are enlarged too.  He was sorry to say that it was not in the beginning stage but more advanced due to the size of the mass (fabulous). My first question was "What can we do?"  The solution: perform a right radical nephrectomy where they remove the whole kidney with the mass attached.  To be honest I felt 100% OK with this answer as my thoughts were 'get whatever is not supposed to be there out'.  I have no fear of surgery and felt confident in their decision.  He had to consult 2 surgeons in the department and then get back to me on a plan of action.  My heart sank when I heard the waiting list to get a kidney (and tumor) removed was 6-8 weeks and, yes, I asked if I would die in that time.
The Urologist then wanted to check my liver so I went for another stomach echo.  Let me tell you, I think I was a familiar face (and name) in a few departments of the hospital that day and am so thankful of the quickness of the Dr's, specialists and admin in ensuring they could obtain my results during the course of 1 day.  I was in the hospital from 10am - 4pm.

I left the hospital in a daze and just wanted to get home as quickly as possible.  Another thing I will remember was that it was a glorious beautiful sunny warm day and I was comforted by the gorgeous bright day.  Life is crazy and fascinating.  Maybe it is from this moment on that I can really understand and appreciate the small things.


I think 'WTF' was the most used expression in our house that evening and next day.  My husband, mum, step-father, boss/very good friend and myself were just shell shocked.  How is this possible?  WTF?!

Kidney cancer, seriously?!  Where most cases happen to men over 60.

I didn't cry, I didn't freak out and to be honest coming from the person who worries more than anyone else I know, I am not worried.  Weird, right?  But hearing about my Gran's cancer was far far worse than hearing about myself.  I have so much empathy and sympathy for my family and friends, as this is one of the shittiest things you can hear.

Needless to say I tossed and turned and didn't really get much sleep that night with my mind filled of thoughts.

The next day - an Action Plan

I pretty much lost my appetite but forced myself to eat.  If I am going to be strong enough for surgery and to beat this I need to eat healthy and keep my nutrition and energy levels up.   On a side note I was drinking water like a pirate drinks rum.

Mr V and I went back to the hospital to meet with the Urologist who said "everything is arranged" and your surgery is in 13 days - it may sound crazy but Mr V and I were over the moon, we looked at each other, smiled and telepathically "boxed" each other as we were ecstatic to have surgery scheduled so soon.

Not your typical response

After speaking with the Urologist we met with the nurse who had leaflets and forms for us.  It must be so hard for all the Dr's, specialists, nurses, admin and any other medical worker to deal with people who have been diagnosed with a mass / cancer; how do you support and speak with the person and their family?  I feel for the nurse who met with us as I am sure she thought we were on something or delusional as we were all smiles, positive and happy.  People may think this is masking some sort of dread and worry but this is just how we naturally are and we believe this is the best way forward.

We left the hospital with another appoint in 2 days with another nurse and the anaesthesiologist.

That night Mr V and I ate a full dinner and slept like logs.


Anonymous said...

Every bit as beautifully written and inspiring as I knew it would be. Cheering you on every step of this butt kicking journey. I believe in YOU xxxxx

Unknown said...

Thank you mama!!!!

sherie culley said...

Have known you for such a short period of time but already see what a positive and focused person you are. These things happen to people who can cope with them and i know you'll fight and win. I agree, the blog is beautifully written by a beautiful person. The culleys are with you, all of you, throughout this journey. XXX

Unknown said...

Sherie, thank you so very much. That really means a lot. Lets try and Facetime / Skype soon!
Hugs xxx

Adida Fallen Angel said...

Powerful piece and a great intro to your blog, not to mention this is actully your life!!!

WTF would be my reaction also but I will also be smiling all over since we all know the greater picture of life.

Unknown said...

Adi - thank you for your kind words that are filled with wisdom :)

Unknown said...

Oh, how I love this! Such an inspiring blog on your journey! Your positivity throughout is insane! Truly a huge inspiration to all!! So good to hear and see how you fought through with so much enlightment! Thank you for sharing your journey mama!! You are a beautiful person inside and out! ❤️❤️❤️

Unknown said...

Aimee - thank you so very much darling, such sweet words. Love and hugs xxx

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisanne. My name is Warren, 48 y.o father of two and have lived in Japan since 2002 and last March was diagnosed with 3cm tumour leading to partial nephrectomy in July. Clear cell RCC. Have been reading your site and on your mail-out list. When I was looking for inspiration after July I saw what you have been doing via James Whale site. Keep up the incredible standard! I hope you and your husband win the competition. Thanks for being incredibly open and thus helping people so much.