My name is Lynne and ten years ago my world was briefly turned upside down when, out of the blue, I received a diagnosis of kidney cancer. I was working full time in a demanding job, was happily married with two sons, aged 12 and 10, and life was very busy but good. When I started to feel a little tired, experienced hot night sweats and possibly a little breakthrough bleeding, I put it down to my age and a busy lifestyle. However I couldn’t ignore the strange feeling which I started to notice in my right side and visited my GP, something I very rarely did. Fortunately he took my concern that “something was definitely not right” seriously and immediately sent me for an ultrasound. This found what I was originally told was probably a cyst on my right kidney but a CT scan several weeks later made it clear that it was more likely a solid tumour.
This happened in May/June 2006 and on 7th July 2006 I underwent a radical nephrectomy when a 7cm clear cell, grade 2 tumour was removed. To be honest, everything happened relatively quickly and so my first concern was about the operation itself rather than the almost certain cancer diagnosis (until the tumour is removed and examined there is a small chance that it could be benign). Even though the operation is major it is actually quite safe and my imaginings about it were probably worse than the real thing. If I were to give anyone any advice about recovering from the operation it would be to take any help that is offered from family and friends and if people ask to help, give them something specific you would like them to do (shopping, washing, hovering etc).
About 6 weeks after the operation, I was told that the tumour was stage 1b, grade 2 clear cell kidney cancer. For the first five years I was followed up by a combination of CT scans, ultrasounds and blood tests which, fortunately, were all clear. I also had a bone scan when I had unexplained leg pain which too was clear. Since my operation I have been fortunate and needed no other treatment. Like many others experience though, any new ache or pain became a source of fear as the trust I had in my body had disappeared and I thought it was the cancer returned. The best piece of advice I was given was to treat any pain as I would have done before diagnosis and only seek advice if it went on for more than 3 weeks (this obviously doesn’t apply to acute pain!). This somehow gave me permission to not worry about any pain and it did help a little. Although not for everyone, guided imagery was a source of support for me as were tai-chi, meditation and walking. I also tried to stick to a healthy diet. All these were things I discovered after diagnosis.
Finally, I would like to emphasise that there can be a good life after a diagnosis of kidney cancer. I made the decision to give up my time consuming job and so as a family we had much less money but a better quality of life. I celebrated my five year anniversary by signing up to trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru which I did a year later in 2012 (something I don’t think I would have done without this diagnosis) and this year (2016), all being well, I shall be walking the length of Hadrian’s Wall from east to west. I know I have been lucky so far and I’m sharing my story here as I wish I could have read survivors’ stories when I was first diagnosed as I would then have known that to live ten years (and hopefully many more) was a real possibility.