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My health journey, Lost My Right Kidney

After the Emergency Room Doctor confirmed that I had kidney cancer, I faced finding a surgeon who could remove the tumor. Where do you go? Who do you call? It is all new to you since you have never had cancer before.

I asked everyone I knew who they would recommend. I didn’t have a primary care doctor, and doctors were unnecessary in my case. I never got sick, remember? So it was friends, family, and all the people they knew.

When you get cut open, finding the best you believe will give you the best chances of success becomes essential.

First consultation with a surgeon

We spoke to a lady at our church who worked with high-powered surgeons. She recommended a man with extensive experience.

I entered his office with trepidation. He wanted to cut me from stem to stern, from my belly button to my spine. It would take six weeks to recover, but he felt I would be ok.

Now, I felt scared. I never imagined they would perform a procedure to cut me in half to extract the kidney.

This man was older and had a great deal of experience. He told me he had done the surgery many times and had significant results. The only problem was that I was unsure if I wanted to be cut in half.

Second consultation with a surgeon

Our oldest son had a friend whose little boy dealt with kidney issues. He recommended the next doctor we met with. That is how it often works initially because you do not know anyone and search everywhere for answers.

The next surgeon who would perform the surgery was very confident. He would perform the surgery laparoscopically, making four small incisions and one large enough to pull the cancerous kidney out. This doctor was so confident that he gave me confidence.

He promised I would need a short recovery time, which proved correct.

I left the surgeon’s office very encouraged. I felt like he was the one to use.

We didn’t have proper medical insurance but a Christian group’s sharing plan. That meant we had to pay out of pocket for everything and then turn it in for repayment.

So now there was financial planning. How would we pay for the scans, X-rays, and consultations, much less the surgery and hospital? God gave us grace. We could cover everything, and we had so many friends at the time who would help in any way possible.

Surgery

Because of insufficient money, I wanted my stay in the hospital to be as short as possible. I checked in on the day of the surgery. They operated. I was in recovery and had to prove I could go to the bathroom before I went home.

I was in the hospital for only 25 hours in total. Some excellent friends were with Betty. My friends filled the waiting room to where the doctors asked me who I was. There were over fifty people in the waiting room.

Recovery

They placed me in a tiny room with no bathroom. Remember, I wanted the cheapest possible hospital bill.

A friend was in the room with Betty and me. He had been like a son. Throughout the entire night, he stayed with me. He helped Betty pound on my back because all the air they had pumped into my body was hurting every muscle. They would pound on me to help me get relief.

Some other extraordinary friends showed up at the hospital and walked with me. I had to walk and go to the bathroom, or I couldn’t go home. I finally urinated. Betty flushed the toilet. The nurse said that didn’t count. Since you flushed it, we were unable to measure the amount. Finally, after what seemed to be a long wait, we were able to go home.

When I got home, some exceptional friends stayed at our house night and day to help Betty. They got me up to go to the bathroom, brought my food, and typed crazy emails that I asked for in my hungover stupor.

Finally, they sat on the deck with me and walked the street of our subdivision, me in shorts and a walking stick, trying to prove I could move, though it was ever so slowly.

Finally, I could sit through a church service in pure agony in only a couple of weeks, and then I attended the ordination service of a missionary friend. I was still pretty drunk on the meds. I cried as I gave my charge, and all my friends laughed at what the drugs were doing to me.

In my drug-induced state, I said and did lots of things I do not remember, but it was a great opportunity for my friends to torture me by telling me what I had said and done.

Another patient with the same surgeon and identical problem dies.

Finally, I was better. I was back in the ministry again. I was preaching, etc.

A preacher friend called to ask that I Visit a man, who had the same cancer and my doctor. This man was dying. They wanted me to encourage him and then try to share the gospel.

We met his wife in the driveway when I arrived with a good friend who worked with me at the church. She was not happy we had come and was quite rude. We told her about the connection with her family, who had asked me to visit.

She said they didn’t need a visit. I explained I had the same cancer and had used the same surgeon. She became livid. She raised her voice and told me he was a quack that was killing her husband.

She told me to get more scans because the doctor had said to them that her husband was cancer-free, but just a couple of inches up was more cancer. The doctor didn’t see it till it was too late.

Now, I was shocked into reality. She said you had better require more scans and not trust that doctor.

She allowed me to visit with her husband as he lay dying several times until he eventually died.

Pet scan

I contacted the surgeon’s office immediately. I told the story. The doctor felt offended but offered me a PET scan, although he didn’t believe it was necessary. After all he had gotten all the cancer.

Betty and I were nervous, so we went for the scan. The scan comprised of giving me a radioactive iodine solution into my bloodstream to see where I had cancer. The scan would go as they put it from the “eyes to the thighs.”

The scan cost over $10,000, and we had no insurance. If we paid with a credit card, the cost in cash was just over $1000.

The scan revealed I did not have more cancer. I appeared to be cancer-free.

Back to my life

Life soon returned to normal. I was preaching, traveling, and doing ministry. Every week, I would visit my new friend who was dying of cancer. I read Scripture and witnessed the best I could. I do not know if he truly trusted in the Lord or not.

I thought I would be good. My strength was back. My life felt normal again. It had worked out well for my uncle, who lived into his 80s and did not die of kidney cancer, so I felt like things were good.

Of course, there is much more coming.

Post Op

After the surgery, they assigned me to visit a nephrologist, a kidney doctor, whom I would see every six months.

They assigned me to an oncologist, whom I would visit every three months for a year or two. First, I would get sonograms and chest X-rays to make sure the cancer was not back. We did this instead of scans since we didn’t have health insurance.

The visits were every three months for a year, maybe every six months, and finally, a yearly visit. Each time was a confirmation that I was cancer-free. The only concern was that I take care of my one remaining kidney.

They only gave me a tiny dose of blood pressure medicine to preserve my kidney when I got into my seventies. Since all the blood has to flow through one kidney instead of two, the doctor wanted to reduce the pressure by a small amount.

Preached a funeral

I was eventually called to preach the funeral of the man who had the same cancer, my surgeon, and surgery. I didn’t know him, really, but I sure suffered with him. His story could have been and should have been my story.

God graciously allowed me to live. He let me return to my family, friends, and ministry. Life was good again.

As one of my grandsons commented, I had been to the door of heaven, and Jesus sent me home again.

To be continued….


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This post first appeared on Austin Gardner, please read the originial post: here

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My health journey, Lost My Right Kidney

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