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Jason Hinojosa and Ada

This is a guest post by Jason Hinojosa, a marketing professional, new father, and kidney cancer patient based in Seattle, Washington. He is also a KCA Ambassador.

It was your typical Super Bowl Sunday, people running around town in their team colors buying last-second snacks for their parties. But this particular Sunday in 2011 turned out to be a day I could never forget.

Most of the day was uneventful, I exercised then ate breakfast, finalized evening plans to watch the game, then a quick hang with some friends at my favorite coffee shop. As I was leaving, I suddenly felt a pain in my back. I didn’t think much of it at first, but 20 minutes later I was in so much pain I had to pull my car over in an empty post office parking lot and call my family for help. The rest of that evening was a blur, with my mom finding me on the ground next to my car screaming in pain, an emergency room visit, and a ton of morphine.

It turned out I had a kidney stone that needed a small outpatient procedure to help me pass, but what the emergency room doctor told me after that still gives me goosebumps when I think about it: “You also have a mass on your other kidney, and I recommend speaking with a urologist ASAP.”

Those words changed my life forever. A month later, I returned to that same hospital for a full nephrectomy of my right kidney. I was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma but was lucky that they found it in early stage. I spent the next 6 months recovering, but overall, I was in good spirits. I was only 27.

Over the next 9 years, I got routine ultrasounds on my left kidney every couple of years. My scans were positive and even though I was building a great relationship with my doctor I eventually started questioning if I needed to continue doing this, especially when my appointments continued through the COVID-19 lockdowns. After some back and forth with my wife, I decided I wouldn’t skip my next appointment. After 9 years of clean tests, one of my biggest fears came to life when my urologist saw something odd in my ultrasound. After more tests, he confirmed that there was a 2.9 cm mass on my left kidney and he was recommending me to a special urologist that specialized in partial nephrectomies. With only one kidney left, there was no room for error.

As with most things in life, the second time around seemed so much easier. My new doctor, Dr. James Porter, said he wanted to facilitate a minimally invasive surgery method called the Da Vinci surgical system. Since this was a microscopic surgery and not open like my first one, my experience recovering was completely different. I was walking around the hospital the next day and the only pain medication I used was Tylenol. I returned to work 3 weeks later and the tiny scars I have from the procedure are barely noticeable now.

Jason Hinojosa and family

“Getting back to normal wasn’t my primary goal. I wanted to come back from this experience mentally and physically stronger than ever before. I have a person depending on me now, and I wanted to do all I could to be there as she grew up.”

At right, Jason with his wife and daughter Ada.

However, the best part of the recovery process was learning my wife and I were pregnant. We knew going into surgery that this was a possibility, but we didn’t want to add any anxiety to the situation.

After my surgery, tests confirmed our pregnancy and this revelation completely changed how I looked at my recovery process . Getting back to normal wasn’t my primary goal. I wanted to come back from this experience mentally and physically stronger than ever before. I have a person depending on me now, and I wanted to do all I could to be there as she grew up.

I started by prioritizing health. I got a team of doctors to help me monitor my kidney for new growth as well as function and then I prioritized healthy eating and exercise. Between my urologist and nephrologist, I’m visiting the doctor about every 6 months to make sure my vitals are in check. As someone who normally avoids doctor visits as much as possible, I’ve found an inner peace in knowing what’s happening in my body. This plan also gives me confidence in knowing that if more growth happened again in the future, I would find it early which could be the difference in saving vs losing my only remaining kidney. I also started working with the Kidney Cancer Association so I could serve as a positive example of the importance of proactive monitoring.

In the 9 years between my first and second diagnosis, there were lots of times I wanted to cancel my appointments, but I continued going and happy that I did. As a 28-year-old with cancer, I felt kind of invincible. Being diagnosed a second time made me more angry, uncertain, and scared because I thought I was done with cancer. Would I have to do this again every 10 years?

But it made me introspective too. I’m grateful for an easier surgery and recovery, and I’m committed to staying as healthy as I can because I also feel like I was saved for something bigger – to become a father to my daughter.

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3 thoughts on “After two kidney cancers, Jason felt he was saved for fatherhood”

  1. I have also survived 2 bouts of kidney cancer. Once was when I was 3, the next one was when I was 25. I received a kidney transplant at 30. I am grateful of everything. I was so scared the second time with kidney cancer, but I was lucky and had a great support team.

    Keep up the great work and letting others know your story.

  2. This is a positive, inspiring story. I had a nephrectomy at age 31 with stage 4 RCC- I ended up with a mega-prosthetic for part of my femur and hip. No other treatment – then they found it in my lungs and lymph nodes 15 years later (1.5 yrs ago). Now I’m on meds. Permanently. Thanks for the reminder about eating and exercise… And the encouragement to push for a better, stronger self. It’s wonderful to hear how well you’re doing!

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