Since the last ultrasound, I have been enjoying life to the hilt. In April, Ed and I moved to a great home with trees and flowers all around us. A family of deer frolic through our woods. Never far away, rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks visit our patio often, even when we are relaxing by the fountain in the fish pond.
Last week I had an ultrasound on my kidneys. The bad news is that it is not smaller. The good news is that it is no bigger than it was. Today I went to see urologist Dr. B, my second opinion doctor. Now he is telling me that surgery could be in the future for me sometime.
The reason? My parents were long-lived and it’s possible I could live to be 90. While happily that is a number of decades from now, there are no statistics on the number of years a kidney tumor can be safely watched. According to Dr. B, it has not happened before.
In the past, doctors took out any kidney that had a tumor. Now they try to take only the tumor and leave much of the kidney. There’s no statistics or research information on what will happen over the years for someone who is expected to live as long as I am. In my situation, there are not a lot of people that have been watched over a long time. So I suggested that I would be the first. That’s a valuable contribution. Right?
“Your possible years left are a whole career for a doctor. Some young doctor will be following you and have to pass you off to yet another doctor. And no doctor wants to do that.” Dr. B conjectured this as if that was a bad thing. It is not for me.
Dr. B said I should think about surgery in a few years. I reminded him of his assertion a year ago that I could live with the tumor. He answered that he is giving me the other side of it now. Hmm.
Reminding him that a year ago he claimed that patients with kidney surgery can die a decade earlier than the national statistics, Dr. B responded that it is true when one whole kidney is extracted. Given that he thinks he can take out my tumor despite it’s delicate position near the blood supply, he downplayed the danger. We did not get into the problem of my lungs. I’m still thinking about this turn of attitude. For now, we agreed things will stay the same.
Meanwhile, I will continue to live fully. Enjoying every minute, I am not slowing down.
What a week! On Monday February 28, I went to my pulmonologist who told me good news about a mysterious spot on my lungs. I’ve been seeing her, and getting pulmonary CT scans every four months. Since there are many reasons the spot could be nothing, I never worried.
The newest scan showed the spot looking less like a tumor and more like a cyst. It Is about 5 or 6 mm (half inch). So, I don’t have to get another chest CT for a year. That means I don’t have to see the pulmonologist for a year. Yea.
At the urologist-oncologist on Friday, March 4, Dr. B. reiterated my risks of having surgery:
1) The tumor is too near the blood supply, so there would be little chance to save any part of my kidney.
2) Losing a kidney can shorten my life by ten years due to stress on my heart.
3) Due to my compromised lungs, I might not survive the three- hour operation.
Inquiring specifically about the risk of not taking out the kidney, I asked Dr. B.: “What is the percentage of people with a small kidney tumor that experience cancer spreading outside the kidney compared to those whose cancer does not spread?” Dr. B replied that only 1 to 2% experience the cancer spreading and 98 -99% do not experience any spreading. He reminded me that it would be natural for the tumor to grow by 1 or 2 mm a year without the growth being a problem.
While I was at the office, Dr. B could not tell if there’s a size difference from 5 months ago when comparing the CT scan and the ultrasound. The radiologist report wasn’t in yet, though the pictures from the ultrasound were.
At 8 AM this morning, Dr. B. called me to say that the tumor appears to have gotten somewhat smaller. So, though it is still there for now, it is shrinking.
In six months, I will get another ultrasound and see Dr. B. Good news! Everyday, I imagine that tumor disappearing to nothing.
Thank you all for your good thoughts for me.