38. When your cancer train threatens to add another car... aka Hello Kidney Mass!
Okay, I’ll admit it. I consider myself a bit of an overachiever.
My “overachieving” just happens to be spinning a lot of plates, all at once, pretty successfully, without having a nervous breakdown. If you have ever paid attention to what a working mom has to do, then you will know it’s not an uncommon skill for women.
This past year I’ve dealt with the two “spinning plates” of having two ( thus far unrelated) cancer diagnoses. (Thyroid and breast, keep up!) But like any good dinner table, apparently there’s always room for one more.
So when I went in for a PETSCAN at the request of my radiation oncologist Dr B, and the results showed that there was a “inter-polar right kidney lesion is suspicious for a primary renal neoplasm,” it was honestly not the nest news ever.
In layman’s terms there is a mass in my right kidney that needs further testing to determine if it is indeed a cyst (Yay, no more cancer!) or a mass (Boo, more cancer and more surgery!)
As instructed, I scheduled am MRI, which was cancelled at the last minute because, despite telling the schedulers that there was a metal valve in my breast expanders, the message wasn’t relayed to the people in charge. Arriving at UCLA at 9 pm on a Tuesday night, we were told it couldn’t happen.
So instead, I was referred for a CT w/ Contrast, which is something that CAN be done with metal in your body. (We know, this time we double checked.) I was initially told I could wait for a couple of months, but the thing I love about Dr B is turns out he’s a bit of a nag. When he saw that I hadn’t had the MRI, he called personally and informed me that”You need to get this done.” Hello Catholic guilt!!
Now a “CT with contrast “ is no different than any other CT except you have an IV with fluid that helps to show the tissue you are looking at. As my Tech so eloquently put it, when you are doing a CT on your abdominal/pelvic region, when they push the contrast it “feels like you are peeing yourself.”
And he was right. You think you just pee’d your pants. (I didn’t of course. I checked.)
What’s that thing they say about how bad news travels fast? I expected to wait ‘til the following week to get my results back. But instead, while browsing at the Macy’s waiting for one of my best friends Beth, my doctor called to say that indeed the mass was solid, and that it was a “solitary 3.4 cm right renal lesion, suspicious for primary renal neoplasm (renal cell carcinoma, possibly clear cell or chromophobe subtypes). Occasionally, breast cancer does result in solitary renal metastases.”
Now Beth’s Dad happens to be a kidney Specialist. And as I looked through the clearance rack, he put my results in layman’s terms:
There’s a slim chance it could be benign, or not cancer. But the results suggest otherwise. It’s unlikely it’s breast cancer because breast cancer doesn’t usually travel. Now it could just be they caught the beginning of “renal cancer.”
Regardless it ain’t good. But the only way to know is to biopsy it.
So what did I do?
I did what any sane person would do when faced with another possible diagnoses, I went for lunch with my friend and had a couple of drinks. I have mostly sworn-off alcohol through this process, but that Friday, I was making a fucking exception.
The thing is, I can handle A LOT, but this seemed like a potential tipping point. I haven’t engaged in a lot of “Why me?” thinking, because I know first hand cancer doesn’t “pick and chose.”
I also am hyper aware of my “medical privilege” as someone who has great insurance, amazing doctors, and a dead father, who insured that without these things I wouldn’t have to make a choice between treatment and going broke.
Yet, even with all these things going for me, I could feel something in me wanting to break. There was A LOT of ANGRY WTF?!? Because with no knowledge, every whisper that carries “Cancer” on it’s breathe makes you die a thousand deaths all over again.
Cause I had to ask…What did this mean? How would it impact all the other plates I was spinning? I soon learned, much like thyroid cancer, beginning stage renal cancer is usually detected by accident as it takes a long time to show symptoms. I had no symptoms so, my history aside, I was actually lucky that they found this potential tumor so early. Plus, it could still be benign. (Until a biopsy is done we won’t know.)
So after 24 hours of playing the “Why me?” game, I chose to go full “Scarlett O’hara” and think about it tomorrow. I scheduled my specialist appointment, and after seeing him this past Monday got my appointment for the biopsy.
My next date with the kidney-piercing needle will be December 21st, 8:30 am.
It just happens to be the “darkest day of the year” thanks to the Winter Solstice, but I am hoping for news that might be a ray of light leading into the New Year.
And if not, well go ahead and load up another plate universe, because clearly you don’t know who you are fucking with.