Renal Cell Carcinoma Survivor

Getting Older is a Welcome Blessing for RCC Survivor

Rose Collins, a wife, mother and grandmother, is also a
Stage IV renal cell carcinoma survivor. Determined to fight the devastating diagnosis from the very beginning, now six years later, Rose treats every day as a truly precious gift.

I believe God will get me through the hardest things in life, just as he did when I was diagnosed with Stage IV RCC. I was pretty sick for a long time, but I thought it was just stress from a demanding job, that I was simply worn down, or perhaps allergies. Eventually, my husband all but demanded I go to the doctor. When my blood tests came back with elevated liver enzymes, an ultrasound showed a large tumor on my kidney.

I was immediately sent for a CT scan of my lungs, which is the most common area of metastasis for kidney cancer. Luckily, it was clear, but by the time I went in for surgery to remove my kidney and nearby lymph nodes, there were spots in my chest and pelvis. It had metastasized extensively. My family was hysterical and upset. I knew God was there for me, though, and that I could get through it.

After surgery, I needed to recover before starting my targeted therapy regimen. I was thankful this newer treatment was available because there weren’t many other options for me. I experienced many of the side effects associated with the drug: intense fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, blisters and mouth sores and my hair thinned and turned gray in stripes. But there was a way to get through every side effect, because to me, it was worth it.

My oncologist, who was a very smart and wonderful man, told me, “Your health comes first; you have to make yourself a priority.” I took it to heart. When I was tired, I slept. Your body heals when you sleep, and no matter what you think you’re getting done, it’s not worth the toll on your body if you don’t rest when you need it. I used baby toothpaste and a baby toothbrush when the mouth sores were bad; battled nausea with medication; and made miracle mineral broth when I couldn’t eat anything else. Homemade chicken soup and aloe vera juice helped my digestive tract heal.

I made it through treatment, and now my numbers are great! Of course, this disease never truly goes away, so I have regular visits with my doctor, who checks my lymph nodes and does blood tests. I have one kidney with limited function and neuropathy in my hands and feet, and sometimes I feel like I still have chemo brain. But I’m so happy to be alive to have the opportunity to feel things, even if they aren’t always so pleasant. And I know it can come back at any time, but I don’t live in fear. If I could get through it the first time, I can get through anything.

Now I manage my stress the best I can and focus more on my mental and physical health. This cancer helped me grow and made me stronger. I wouldn’t choose to go through it again, but I wouldn’t undo it either. I am so much more appreciative of how precious and how short life truly is. And I know that if I can make it through this, I can make it through anything.

You have to be determined to fight. Take advantage of all of the support that’s available; attend any classes for cancer patients on things like nutrition and focus on eating cancer-fighting foods. It’s also important to verbalize what you’re going through, and ask your medical team any and all questions you have because knowledge is powerful. And remember, above all else, your health comes first.


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