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This is a guest post by Teri Brown-Walker, a KCA Ambassador and a renal cell carcinoma survivor.

In 2021 I was diagnosed with two cysts on my left kidney and was told it was filled with fluid. I was told back then that the cyst was so small and not to be too concerned. However, I was given options to have them removed but all I heard back then was “not to be too concerned”.

Fast forward to 2023, those cysts turned into real life cancerous tumors that had begun to spread and I ended up having a partial nephrectomy in January 2024.

After surgery, the pathology report in fact confirmed that the tumor was indeed malignant renal cell carcinoma and measured at 8 cm. I often wonder why me, why did I get off so lucky when others in my kidney cancer support group had it much worse than I.

The word “cancer” sent me spiraling into isolation with high anxiety, depression, and guilt. I had many sleepless nights and felt powerless. Thoughts and questions that constantly ran through my mind:

  • Am I going to die, how long do I have to live?
  • What about my mom, children and husband, how will they handle my death?
  • Can I successfully live with one kidney, what if I get cancer in the other kidney? (kidney transplant was a very scary option.)
  • Is it best to just remove the kidney all together to ensure the cancer doesn’t return (My dad and uncle died of multiple myeloma, surely, I would suffer the same fate.)
  • Did I cause my cancer from being overweight and working in a highly stressful job?

Managing the emotional stress

I was ready to give up, suicide was often on my mind, and I felt if I didn’t come out of this surgery my family would be able to collect on my life insurance vs me taking my own life. So I continued to struggle in silence.

I started trying to get my affairs in order but the depression and isolation was just too crippling. The waiting for answers was the absolute worst. I found out about the tumor in September 2023 and had to wait until November 2023 to see my oncologist. I got a second opinion in December 2023 and had the surgery in January 2024. Four months of waiting and the fear of the unknown was a living hell. No one with a cancer diagnosis should have to play the wait-and-see game. Waiting for answers was one of the worst moments in my life.

I confided my feelings to my husband, and he encouraged me to seek counseling. I reached out to my Pastor as well as set up a counseling session with my therapist. My initial meeting with my therapist helped me manage my emotional stress better and I started to utilize the resources available through the Kidney Cancer Association i.e., Just Diagnosed Toolkit and the Patient Video Library. I also joined a kidney cancer support group on Facebook that was and still is a tremendous help. These resources gave me HOPE that God wasn’t finished with me yet.

The FEAR is REAL (Scanxiety)

For the next 5 years, every 6 months, I have to have scans to ensure the cancer hasn’t returned. My first scan is scheduled for August 2024 and the anticipation is already crippling. I’m constantly playing the emotional kidney cancer lottery game; will she be lucky again or will the scan show that the cancer has returned and her luck finally has run out. After all, both my Dad and Uncle died of cancer in their 60’s. Who the HELL wants to go through this SCANXIETY twice a year. I guess I have no choice, after all I am one of the lucky ones…

Survivors Guilt

I don’t speak much about my experience because I still have both kidneys. The surgeon was able to remove the tumor and save my left kidney. The majority of people in my support group lost at least one of their kidneys in some cases both. They had it far worse than I did, my stage 2, 8 cm tumor is nothing compared to the horror stories of other survivors in my support group. Remember, I’m one of the lucky ones, we caught this so early, I was able to keep both my kidneys. I didn’t feel worthy of this blessing from God and I felt like my status would be an insult to those kidney cancer survivors with one kidney. I still don’t feel worthy of being a kidney cancer survivor, but I’m working on that and that is why I decided to become a KCA Ambassador. I hope sharing my story will help others facing something similar.

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2 thoughts on “Teri Brown-Walker’s Kidney Cancer Story”

  1. I also had a left kidney 7.6cm tumor, I lost my left kidney..November 2015. SCANXIETY IS HORRIBLE! The fear and anxiety I suffered after this diagnosis was debilitating. My mother died in 2009 from the same thing. I was lucky too…found accidentally, stage 2, no metastasis! The fear made me feel weak, and unable to share, because after all, I was lucky!

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