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Susan Hill and her husband, Bruce, had always been very active. When her healthy husband found it difficult to keep up with their kids on a hiking trip, Susan suggested he see a doctor.

An ultrasound and a CT scan revealed that Bruce had a mass on his right kidney and small nodes on his lungs. Surgery quickly followed to remove one of Bruce’s kidneys and Susan immediately stepped in as his caregiver, learning how to juggle the diagnosis and caring for her family at the same time.

“There’s not much I can do for cancer, but I can do things like focus on exercise, diet, and mental health – keeping him cheered up,” she said.

Bruce and Susan Hill with their children.

In addition to a positive outlook, Susan said overcoming the fear of having difficult conversations and making time to talk about the future early on was a big help.

“I started purging our house and, honestly, part of my motivation was not doing it by myself someday,” Susan said.

“This forced the issue of talking about things like accounts, housework, and bills. What if something happens sooner than later? I had my own ideas about what retirement and aging would be like. We sat down and talked about everything. It was not scary and it was a relief to have that done. Our relationship got stronger. We realized life is about ‘less junk, more journey.’”

Susan and Bruce take advantage of where the many doctor’s appointments are and try a new hiking trail or museum as a way to take the focus off of the appointment.

Susan also made it her goal to learn as much as possible during appointments.

“Part of [being a caregiver] is making sure I understand what’s going on. I can ask questions of the oncologist,” Susan said. It was important to work as a team with Bruce and his doctors, which helps Susan support him.

The Hills have also gathered an unofficial support group online as they shared highlights of Bruce’s progress on Instagram to keep family, friends, and coworkers updated throughout this experience.

“I treat Instagram like a diary,” Susan said. “And a big part of why we’re so open about it is we want our friends to know that they should be looking out for symptoms. You have to go to the doctor, do blood work, and be your own advocates.”

Susan and Bruce Hill are both members of the KCA’s Patient and Caregiver Advisory Council.

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2 thoughts on “Hard talks about kidney cancer helped Susan Hill”

  1. I never had any symptoms related to any form of cancer. Had been overweight all my life. Started an exercise routine when one of my longtime customers started a gym. I was about fifty. One morning at about 5:30 am began my normal warm up one of the elliptical machines and found my HR at 155.
    Made a trip to my doctor that day and found that I had Afib. In checking for a blood clots a tumor was discovered on my left kidney. In July of 2012 my left kidney and tumor were removed. All surrounding tissue looked clear by the surgeon. I was 62. Annual checks up discovered spots returning in the left lung. I was 64. Had never been referred to an oncologist until then. Oncologist tried High Dose Interluken II. At 64 I was probably over the limit, but in good health. Went straight to ICU goo a week for treatments every eight hours around the clock. After receiving eight of a scheduled fifteen doses, I had to be pulled out. Distress on my liver and remaining kidney was too great. However, I know of younger and stronger patients that have been successfully treated and cured.
    Since the age of 64 I have been under immunatherphy treatments(2014). In have been on a number different drugs during that time. Had a real bad downturn in 2018. Inquired about a second opinion and my oncologist was supportive.
    My wife and I went to MD Anderson in Houston at the suggestion of my oc. Since 2018 have been on joint supervision by MD A and my original oncologist in San Antonio. I get all my treatment blood work every 28 days in S A and go to MD A every three or four months for scans and evaluation.
    I have been on nuvolumad (Opdivo) I haven’t learned to spell it yet, along with cabozanitib(Cabometyx) haven’t learned to spell it either, for two and a half years.
    My cancer progression has been relatively stable during the last six years. When a treatment appeared to be in affective, I would be switched to another. All the treatments had been oral tablets until I started the Opdivo in 2018.
    I have been on the Opdivo infusion and Cabometyx tablets for two and half years. My oncologist in San Antonio said in 2018 that he would not have been able to get that combination approved for coverage for me, but because it had prescribed by MD Anderson, approval was more likely. I think it is a more acceptable treatment now.
    This treatment plan has kept my progression to a stand still and had even begun to show some shrinkage in my lesions.
    Your spouse or companion is extremely important. My wife makes sure that I’m keeping up with my meds. She checks me over everyday for any new developments and tends to any that require attention.
    We are both seventy years old and will celebrate our fiftieth anniversary in two weeks. We aren’t wealthy but managed see some of the country still in our 1994 Airstream trailer.
    We live in a small town outside
    San Antonio and still have our four daughters close by. They all live and work in the area. We are able to see our grand children grow up, go to college, and even have some married and give us great grandchildren.
    I have been on immunotherapy for over six years and still going. My worst problem is old age. I’ve decided, since I’m going to be around for a while, to get some of these things worked on. I’ve had one cataract surgery and going to have the other in three weeks. My lower back is about gone from years of overweight. I’m gettin some treatment that will I hope will help. Will try to avoid any surgery.
    That’s been one advantage or the cancer treatments. They have altered my appetite so that have been able to keep myself from what was once about 270 lbs to about 210 now.
    None of this would have been possible without a real faith in God, my family, and my church.

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