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This is a guest post by Susan Hill, a member of the KCA’s Patient & Caregiver Advisory Council and wife and caregiver of Bruce Hill. She documents their adventures on Instagram.

When we found out Bruce had an “ugly” tumor on his right kidney and needed a radical nephrectomy, my head was spinning. Leaving the hospital, I knew I needed to process what the doctor had just told us. While Bruce was obligated to return to work, I headed to one of my favorite parks along the Hudson River for a brisk hike. The fresh air and beautiful scenery calmed me and helped clear my mind.

Two weeks later while Bruce was undergoing his nephrectomy to remove the right kidney, my brother asked if there was some place nearby the hospital we could go for a walk. I didn’t want to leave the waiting room but my brother reassured me the doctor had my cell number and we could return to the hospital in a matter of minutes if necessary.

Again, the change of scenery and exercise were exactly what I needed to remain calm while waiting for Bruce to come out of surgery. I was also mentally prepared to discuss with the surgeon the next steps required to address the cancer cells that had spread to Bruce’s lungs.

Post-surgery, our activities were limited but I had Bruce walking in the sunshine as soon as possible. Spending time together outdoors has continued to be a big part of our kidney cancer journey.

Patients and caregivers know scanxiety is real and oncology appointments are overwhelming. Rather than make kidney cancer the focus of those days, we usually plan an adventure on appointment days.

For example, Bruce had a procedure in New York City, so we took the opportunity to visit the Museum of Modern Art beforehand. Immunotherapy treatments late in the day means we can fit in a new hike along the way to the medical center. A long drive just for blood work seems like an inconvenience but visiting Washington Irving’s grave in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery on the way home makes it worth the trip. Kidney cancer is part of our lives but we refuse to let it become the main focus.

We are fortunate to live in the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York where parks and points of interest abound. Whether it is walking along a scenic walkway, hiking a wooded trail, watching a waterfall, or visiting a historical landmark, we make exploring together a priority.

Our latest escapades have had us exploring beyond the Hudson Valley – camping in state parks and sleeping in a rooftop tent. And spending time outdoors during the Covid-19 pandemic was a safe way for a high-risk kidney cancer patient and his caregiver to continue exploring.

I always say it is good to get out of town, even if it’s the next town over. Cancer can be draining but a little adventure provides a much-needed change of scenery and chance to reenergize. Pack your water bottle and some healthy snacks, wear weather-appropriate layers and comfortable walking shoes, open Google Maps and discover a new place. Explore more.

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