I was diagnosed with kidney cancer in January 1998 at the
age of 32. I believe my whole experience from diagnosis to surgery was directed
My journey with cancer began when I experienced sudden pain
in my right flank, which caused me to visit the emergency room.
During this visit, several tests were performed, including
blood work and an ultrasound. The ER physician said a small cyst was found on
my right kidney, but he felt the pain was possibly from gallbladder issues. He
advised me to follow up with my primary care physician.
When I saw my doctor, he didn’t see any cause for concern
with the cyst but told me God laid it on his heart to further evaluate. He
referred me to an urologist for workup and biopsy.
On the day of the biopsy, my physician cancelled because he
said he had a gut feeling the biopsy should be postponed until further testing
was completed. I had an appointment for a MRI one week after the scheduled
biopsy, but suddenly there was opening the very next day. God was at work
again. By the next day, I had the results.
My physician’s gut feeling was correct – it was kidney
cancer. If the surgeon had proceeded with the biopsy – due to the fact that the
tumor was totally encapsulated – it could have spread cancer cells throughout
Thankfully, because God was in control and I had great
physicians, my cancer was caught early. I was able to receive immediate
The diagnosis was shocking because kidney cancer most often
occurs in elderly males. At first, I could not believe I was diagnosed with
cancer. I thought this does not happen to me, it happens to someone else.
Despite the shock of this diagnosis, I felt peace that surpasses all
My right kidney was removed, which is the treatment of
choice for early stage kidney cancer. My scar extends from my navel to my
backbone and included removal of three ribs and a week of hospitalization. But
surgical techniques have drastically improved since my surgery in 1998. Today,
this procedure is done with only a 3 inch incision and minimal hospitalization.
I was blessed the process moved so quickly, and I had the
support of my family, friends, church family and coworkers. Feeling their love
and support and knowing I was constantly being lifted up in prayer is what
meant the most to me.
I have been an oncology nurse since 1987, and I always felt
I was very empathetic toward my patients. Never did I realize what each patient
truly experiences until I was diagnosed. The history of cancer follows you for
the rest of your life. Even 18 years later, any new pain or ailment is alarming
and makes you wonder is the cancer back?
Being a survivor has been, in part, a blessing to share with
my patients. When they discover I have survived 18 years, it gives them a sense
of hope that every single cancer diagnosis will not result in an untimely
Another blessing is the ability to share my story at the
annual Wellmont Women’s Cancer Retreat. It is so uplifting to be surrounded by
other women who have fought and survived a cancer diagnosis.
My life before cancer was great. I had two healthy daughters
and a loving husband. Although the diagnosis was a shock, it changed my life
for the better.
It made me realize my purpose is to serve others and be
selfless. I truly learned to live. God showed me through this time that He is
sovereign. He knows what He is doing, and His timing is perfect even if it does
not seem that way to us.
I look back and see how blessed I am because of my
relationship with Him. It allows me to see that life is about sharing God’s
love with others and loving them. I know when I feel like I am at my weakest –
that is when I can be my strongest through the Lord.
One major revelation from this diagnosis is the small
trivial things in life are unimportant. Family, friends, God and sharing the love of God with others is what
Something that has greatly impacted my life to this day was
a simple gift from a coworker, a journal. I began daily journaling that very
day and have since continued. I am able to look back at entries and see
triumphs in difficult times and the ultimate message that God is in control.
If I lose perspective
these journals allow me to refocus and remember that God’s grace is always
sufficient regardless of the situation. I share this with patients and
encourage them to start writing their thoughts and feelings into a journal.
My cancer is likely to come back someday and when that day
comes I have to stand in the knowledge that God’s grace will carry me through.
None of us know what tomorrow or even the next minute hold, so it is important
to live every second of every day to the fullest.
The advances in cancer treatment within the past few years
have improved survival and even provided hope. Cancer is not a death sentence
as it once was. When I began working as an oncology nurse we had six chairs in
the infusion room, and today there are 42. It is truly amazing to see how far
we have come. Cancer is never a word you want to hear, but today there is hope
associated with it. At the Wellmont Cancer Institute, we see hope every day.
My job as an oncology nurse allows me to keep perspective.
As I witness patients unable to do the simple things we take for granted, such
as walk or breathe without difficulty, I am continuously amazed by their
positive attitude and faith.
I learned oncology nursing is not my job; it is my ministry
and my calling. My prayer has been that God will work in our office and make it
a lighthouse of His love. This is coming to fruition, and we hear this from our
patients, their families and the community.
I consider my profession not only calling, but also a
blessing. I recently encountered someone on an elevator that asked what I did
for a job. When I said oncology nursing, he said he thought that was a
depressing job. I can see how he could think that, but it is all about
perspective and I see my job as one of the biggest blessings in my life. I actually feel lucky to be allowed to touch
these patient’s lives in such a special and meaningful way every single day.
Did a compassionate smile lift your spirits? Or did a world-class team of physicians save your life? Whether you were born here, healed here or both,
we want to hear your story.
If you do share your experience, you may be contacted by a Wellmont representative for more details.
Have questions about cancer care? Nurse connection is here – 24/7. Get answers. Access some of the best cancer specialists anywhere.
Or call a nurse now at 877‑230‑NURSE.
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