Four years ago, my family was agonizing in a hospital waiting room while I was in surgery. Thankfully, one of the perks of anesthesia is that you don’t remember that part. I do remember waking up, though. There was a nurse at my side, soon followed by my loving husband, and later my mom. In recovery, they only allow one visitor at a time. I remember being groggy from pain meds & amazed at how much it hurt my stomach to even breathe, much less to move or, heaven forbid, to cough.
It had been a rough month. January 1st began with the excitement of signing the lease for a retail space to move my photography business into. It was a leap of faith. I was going to have a real studio! Two nights later I was shriveled up on the cold bathroom floor. Paramedics were in my bathroom admonishing me for taking nausea medicine that was expired. I had never had a stomach bug so violent before. Or ridden in an ambulance. There’s a first time for everything.
A week later we were sitting in a urologists office hearing the “M” word. Malignant. I was 30 years old and had a 5 cm tumor on my right kidney. Afterwards, my husband and I sat at Chili’s staring at each other across the table. I had chili soft tacos with black beans. How did this happen? What does this mean? 97% is a pretty certain percentage. Should we look for another opinion? How did I end up with an old man’s disease? How would I be able to pay rent for a studio when I couldn’t pick up a camera for 2 months? What was in store for us? The diagnosis hung over the table as a gloomy black cloud. Kidney Cancer.
The first thing I did when I got home that week, besides hugging my babies extra hard, was to have pictures made WITH my children. Of course, as a photographer, I had plenty of pictures OF my children. But not with ME in them. I wanted to make sure they had some. Just in case. I still try to do this once a year. It’s something that is important to me.
Things moved quickly. A friend who worked for MD Anderson presented my case before one of the leading kidney doctors in the field, and he took a special interest in me. We were scheduled for surgery by the end of the month. After the initial shock and difficulty of recovering from losing a kidney, things weren’t so bad. In fact, I look back on what I lovingly refer to as “my little bout with cancer” as a blessing in my life.
I am blessed that I got a stomach bug that led to an ultrasound and an “accidental” finding. (It was by no means an accident, I’m sure). I am blessed in that I did not have to undergo chemo or radiation. I am blessed that the cancer decided to attach itself to an organ that was “disposable.” At least you have two kidneys! Do you know that my left kidney has grown larger since the surgery to compensate for the loss of its friend? Isn’t God’s design for the human body amazing? I am blessed that the type of cancer I had was rare, and is seldom recurring. I am blessed that I had so many loved ones – family, friends & church members – who showered us with love and support. I didn’t have to cook a meal for 6 weeks following the surgery! Awesome. I am blessed that I have another “chance” at life. I am blessed to receive a wake-up call to tell me to appreciate life and live it to the fullest. I am blessed to have the opportunity to serve the awesome God that takes care of us, and to have a reminder where my priorities should lie.
I look at today as a birthday of sorts. I have three, you know. My actual day of birth (July 27th). My “re”birthday – the anniversary of the day I put on Christ in baptism and became a Christian (February 28th). And this new birthday (January 25th). The day I became cancer-free.
Today, I celebrate LIFE.