I will never forget December 18, 2008 because that day I received the results of my abdominal CT scan. I am a nurse practitioner and I had worked in the building where the radiology center was located. I left my office for the day, and headed down to the radiology department so that I could get a copy of my results before my doctor called. That is a benefit of being a healthcare provider, I have access to my results quickly. I could wait and have had my doctor call me, but to be honest, I hate surprises and I just could not stand the wait. Besides, if it was something serious I could at least be ready for his call having all my questions written down instead of being blind sighted by the news being unable to even think.
I walked up to the desk and I said hi to everyone. I knew everyone there. I asked for a print out of my results, and while they were being printed, we chatted. I thanked them and walked out to my car. I sat and read my report and it said all was normal. I first felt relieved because I was feeling poorly with many strange symptoms. I was so worried that it could be something serious but now I felt frustrated because I knew something was going on and still no answers.
As I was getting ready to start my car I remembered that I was supposed to have an ultrasound of my right kidney next month to follow-up from a previous ultrasound showing a questionable cyst. I reread the CT scan report and it did not mention anything wrong with my right kidney. I decided to talk to the radiologist just to confirm that it was fine and to make sure I no longer needed the ultrasound in the following month.
I got out of my car and walked back to radiology. I went to the radiologist and asked if he could take another look at the CT so that I can cancel my upcoming ultrasound appointment. He pulled up my scan, we chatted for a bit, and then he asked me to wait out in the waiting room for a couple of minutes. I thought, that's strange, why do I need to do that? I went back to the reception area and chatted with the front staff. The radiologist came out and asked me to come back to his office. He looked so serious.
I sat down and he said that he looked at my scan again. My right kidney is fine, no need to do an ultrasound on it. He then told me that there was a mass on my left kidney that was solid. It was not very big but most likely was cancer and that I needed to see an urologist. He apologized that it was not caught on the first read and was so happy I came back to ask him to look at it. I left and sat in my car totally blind sighted. One minute I was fine, the next minute I had cancer.
I went home, told my husband. He did not want to believe it. I explained how we know that there is a 90% chance it was cancer because it was a sold mass. Sure there is still a 10% chance it is not cancer, but those odds are not favorable. I made my appointment with the urologist and researched everything until my appointment. I need to know all the good and the bad including all the treatment possibilities so that I can make informed decisions. My husband, on the other hand, did not want to know anything until we saw the doctor. You can call this Venus and Mars or just we have very different coping mechanisms.
We went to the urologist a few days later and he confirmed that it was most likely cancer. My husband was shocked, he really thought the news would be benign. Of course we would not know for sure until he removed part of my kidney but he was fairly certain. Since the mass was small, he thought he could get away with only removing part of the kidney and not the whole kidney but would not know until he opens me up and has a good look at it. The good news is that these type of cancers have a great prognosis as long as you get it all out and since mine was only a little over a centimeter, my prognosis was excellent. In fact, because it is small, no chemo would be needed.
The hardest thing I had to do was tell my children. I waited for them to come home from college and sat them down. My one son who was in engineering only wanted to know the stats, my other son was more emotional. We talked, I assured them I would be okay, and I told them I scheduled my surgery right before my older son was leaving to study abroad so that he could be here.
The surgery went well and I am so happy to say I am 5 years cancer free. I do not know what made me get out of my car to have them recheck my scan, but what I do know is that this one decision may have saved my life.
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