There are dates that are so entwined as part of who I am since my cancer diagnosis in 2008 that I celebrate them every year. Yesterday, December 1st, was five years since my nephrectomy. At MCV hospital in Richmond, VA Doctors Guruli and Worthington saved my life.
Prior to the surgery they were completely honest that the surgery was going to be difficult due to my size. I’m a large woman, in fact, I am what they call supersize. I’m fat. Yes, that makes surgeries of that depth harder on me and the surgeons.
We were warned, I had to be up and moving as soon as possible after surgery or I would have even further issues. The day after I was walking on my walker and sitting in a chair.
They told me it was going to be weeks before I went home. Five days after surgery they released me. I refused to let the naysayers be correct. I fought to get out of there. My body hated it, but I wanted to go.
Don’t get me wrong, it took a long time to heal. I had an incision that runs from just below my breast, down the midline and into my belly button. It is 16.5 inches long.
I came home with staples and glue and internal stitches. The majority of the incision healed in a couple months. However one portion stayed open for close to ten months.
It hurt, it destroyed my stomach muscles, changed my body in odd ways (my clothes from prior to the surgery never fit properly again due to the changes.) However, without it, I wouldn’t be sitting here able to write about it.
Cancer changed me, but not in the way so many people say it changed them. I do not see having renal cell cancer at 33 as a blessing. In fact, I have argued with other survivors who say we should all think it was a good thing.
It did not make me a happier person. It did not make me appreciate my family more. It did not make me a better person.
It did make me worry if that new pain is metastatic disease. It does make me fear the nodules in my lungs that we aren’t sure what they are, yet. It did give me severe lymphedema that has caused open wounds and made life even more difficult for me.
Yes, I am grateful that I am alive and doing well five years later, but no, I am not grateful that I had cancer.