After going for my yearly checkup in 2010, I got an urgent call from my primary doctor stating I had to go to a kidney specialist. He wanted to take out my right kidney because he suspected cancer.
I went for a second opinion at Vanderbilt Hospital. There was a large mass on my right kidney, but they did not know if it was malignant. The result of a biopsy was inconclusive. I chose to have them watch the mass rather than remove it. The next annual visit I had an MRI. The cancer was there and it was growing. I went to see a surgeon. He showed me the results and told me my options..."surgery or death".
I had my surgery January 29, 2013 and spent eight days in the hospital that felt more like eight years. I have heard the jokes about hospital food, but never dreamed it was that bad. How do you mess up apple sauce? During my time in the hospital I experienced my darkest hours, but they taught me something about my wife and myself. My wife spent every night in the hospital with me. She went home took a shower went to work and came back to the hospital. That was her schedule. But the big question was how do I cope?
COPING with my illness is not just one thing...it is multiple things. I have my faith in God. I attend church regularly and have a very good support system through my church.
I have a good woman behind me and I have the support of my family. I understand that my life is what I make it. My wife and I had a twenty minute "pity party" about how ESRD would change our lives and decided to move forward. We love to travel and we enjoy music. We love spending time with family and we have a new grand son who will need his Papa.
I have to go to a dialysis center and be hooked up to a machine for four and a half hours 3 times a week. That has become "my job". I look at it like work. I show up, do the job and I go home. It is necessary for me to be the husband, father and grandfather for my loved ones.
I have to watch what I eat, how much fluid I take in and take daily medication, but on the positive side I drive myself wherever I want go, get to practice my photography and I golf. I travel when I want and can get my dialysis wherever I travel. My overall health is fine--I just have to have dialysis 3 times a week. I still have a life...albeit a different one than before. But I still have a full life that I enjoy and people that love me.
One important thing I learned was that the dialysis center makes a big difference in your overall health and disposition. I changed dialysis centers late last year and it has been so much better for me. The care I get now is so much better than what I experienced before. I know what to expect when I go to the center every morning. The staff appears to be more competent and that gives me a better outlook on dialysis. I get better communication and it is a more pleasant atmosphere.
I have always been a positive person. I love to laugh and have a good time. I find that I have to adjust some things on dialysis days, but overall I am able to live my life.
Kidney Center M. R.