Cancer is a part of me forever, even though I am cancer-free now

Cancer--a diagnosis that no one ever wants to hear from a doctor.

I was diagnosed with left renal cell carcinoma (RCC) January, 2008, I had kidney cancer. My cancer was found only because my doctor had ordered a CT scan due to right-sided abdominal pain. Yes, my cancer was an incidental find which is typical for this type of cancer, and was not even the cause of my abdominal pain.

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I had surgery to remove this unwanted intruder that February. I was fortunate that the cancer was completely removed and did not spread to other organs so chemotherapy was not needed. I will be followed closely for the rest of my life because of a high recurrence rate for this type of cancer.

Cancer will always be a part of me. Just because I am cancer-free today does not mean that I will be cancer-free tomorrow. Do I worry about this daily? NO. The only times I am reminded about my cancer are when I go for my scans or when I do not feel "right."  I had a scare last year when a scan showed a spot on my bone. Kidney cancer spreads to bone. I went through tests and, thank goodness, it was not a recurrence of the cancer. I am still cancer-free yet not free from worrying about it.

Yes cancer is scary but I also want you to know that positives did come out of my diagnosis. I try to live my life with no regrets but never at the expense of others. I let my family and friends know how important they are to me not only by words but by actions such as my yearly letter to my adult children. This letter tells them how proud I am of them and how they make a difference in my life. I also take care of both my physical and mental health so that I can be the best that I can be. I try never to take life for granted.

While cancer will always be a part of my life, I refuse to let it be the dominant feature of who I am. If you are being treated for cancer now or are in complete remission, remember that you determine how your cancer defines you. Do not give that power to the cancer.

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I want to thank Kerri K. Morris for her post "Do you believe once you have cancer you always have cancer? I guess I'm one of those who does"  which inspired this piece.

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    Nancy Chodash

    I am a nurse practitioner who not only treats patients, but has had chronic illnesses including cancer so I understand how frustrating medicine can be. But through all this, I have never lost my sense of humor and my ability to make people laugh. I love to cook, and since becoming gluten-free a year ago, I have recipes for everyone's tastes whether it be healthy, decadent, vegetarian, or gluten-free. My philosophy is all about health, food, laughter and life!

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