Gemma A S.


I am 45 years old (actually 54 – maybe I just feel 45 – I know my husband is 45!) as of November 2009.  Married to Jerry coming up to 15 years in May of this year (2010).  We met in London, and lived there many years, then moved to Liphook in Hampshire, but realized I could not do that commute for years to come. We sold up and moved to Indre in France, and then again close to Poitiers.  Circumstances meant we could not stay in France without starving, so we moved to Nova Scotia in Canada, where we have been for almost 4 years now. We are again due to move out to the country about 20 miles away, and hope that this will be our last move for many years.  We have 2 dogs Oliver (a 6 year old French born English Setter) Branwen (a 2 year old canadian born Siberian Husky), and 2 cats (sisters) Loki and Freyja who will be 11 this year.

My Kidney Cancer Story

Before I went to France I had lost weight and stayed at 57 kilos (8 st 9lbs) I am 5′ 8″ (all the time). I was only overweight once after my first year at university in 1989.. a hefty 11 1/2 stone, and I removed the extra that summer. I have never been a smoker, but enjoy both beer and wine.   Any questions I have had about diet since my diagnosis, has got the response that no changes are necessary, so I have tried to eat healthily, and still enjoy my wine.

The story began when I had pneumonia the first winter in Port Hawkesbury (2006/2007), and subsequent to that I acquired a heart arrhythmia.  I probably ignored it for about a year, as I was more focused on getting my Iron level back down, which had gone up to 6 times what it should be after the infection.  My GP when I did bring it up referred me to a  heart specialist. After many tests they said I had  Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia (PSVT), and this could be controlled by drugs.  The one thing my own GP or the heart specialist could explain that I was now 68 kilos.. (10st 7lbs), my eating patterns had not changed, and hear I was, shoes were tight, boots no longer zipped up, my new low slung jeans would not come up very far past my knees, and my rings were too tight to be worn.  So my quesiton was ‘will the heart drugs get rid of this fluid, and that I will return to normal weight’  – he didn’t know, and  he also said he didn’t think it was fluid.  So I said ‘so your saying it’s my age, it’s not hugely overweight, I have to live with it?’ .. he didn’t respond.. but suggested a scan just to see if anything else was going on. I had to wait a few months.. and on August 25th 2008 I had an Ultrasound, and the technician said ‘and then to save me coming all the way back, we aren’t busy today, we will do a CT Scan as well’  and I thought, wonderful they are being so thorough.

On August 26th, my own GP called  and left a voicemail at home, and it was only the next morning my husband told me about it, and for me to call him. So on August 27th I called the surgery, and got put through ‘ I just want to be sure you are being taken care of in regards to the suspected tumor?’ there was a very odd conversation, me thinking he must have someone else’s results.. and he had thought I had seen the specialist, the Dr had no idea I had no idea about this. He asked me to make and appointment to come in, and I got one for a couple of days after.   I left work and managed to drive to my husband place of work, and we went home to talk about it.  I was totally in shock, and wanted answers now.. so another call to the Dr got me the first appointment that day after lunch.. so that is when I heard that they suspected Renal Cell Carcinoma in my Right Kidney.  I was referred to see Dr Joseph Lawen in Halifax, and this was in September, and then scheduled for a Laprascopic Nephrectomy on 19th October.

At my preassement the week before surgery - my hear arythmia was the issue and I spoke with so many anaesthetists, any one of them that might be scheduled for my surgery on the day was going to be fully in the picture, and everything would be fine. However, on the day I had to be there 3 hours before, and that became 4, by which time I was asleep across some chairs, and we walked down to theatre. My husband and sister went off to lunch. I in the meantime was another hour on a trolley outside the OR, waiting for them to finish the previous patient.  I was on my own, watching mops and buckets being taken in to clean up. In myself I felt ok, the heart arythmia had not really been a problem, and I was not aware of having any issues at that time. I was asked to walk into the OR, and got onto the table, and they started prepping me.. and the anaethetist came to talk to me, nothing to untoward being said that I remember, the premed was in, and things were going on.. and finally the mask was being put on my face, and I was psyched and ready – the mask was taken away, the anaethetist got cold feet, I was rolled out of theater saying it was cancelled, and my husband got a call on his mobile saying it was cancelled and I was going home. 

However, with me to the point of hysteria, and my heart reacting to that – the chief resident Greg Trottier said if I was sent home, that they would be in the same situation next time, that the cardiac issue needed to be dealt with, as the kidney had to come out.  So there I was the noisest person in recovery, having had nothing done to me, was staying in – and my heart calmed down again.  Eventually, I was up on the ward, and my husband and sister were there, and a whole week of tests, and a heart procedure that couldn’t be fully completed happened. I was scheduled for the follwoing Saturday 25th October, but again cancelled due to transplants. Finally, they made room for me as the first patient on the Monday 27th October – the anaesthetist was confident we would be fine, I didn’t have to hang around hardly at all, once I was out they put an extra monitor in a vessel just behind my right thumb, and I had numbness for weeks, but it didn’t matter because the kidney was out.   The surgical team came to see me back on the ward that evening, and said they were pretty sure it was RCC, and that the pathology would confirm it, but they did say that from what they could see that it was contained within the kidney.  My week was about getting out of bed, fainting, getting back into bed.. being taken for a Heart Ultrasound, but a woman porter who was having a bad day, to the Ultrasound technician who was not gentle, and ignored by crying, and back to the porter who actually drove me into the witch on the corner of the ward.. It was Halloween. She insisted on taking me back to my room, and was about to move me into the bed, and there was bad language on my part, telling her not to touch me, to get help.. and all of a sudden my dream team were there.. my favourite residents, lifted me back into bed.. and got rid of the porter.  So just in case anyone is wondering.. all the residents were handsome – no question about it.. part of the job requirement I think, so they became my dream team. Seemed apt to me.   I got to go home on Halloween.  More to follow.

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This post was written by Gemma A.S. on February 2, 2010

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