A cancer diagnosis is usually the last thing a 24-year-old expects to hear from her doctor. But according to the National Cancer Institute, more than 72,000 adolescents and young adults (ages 15-39) will hear the words "you have cancer" each year in the United States. Danielle Wilson was one of those young adults.
Danielle is the mother of a 3-year-old little girl and had the biggest scare of her life earlier this year when she was diagnosed with kidney cancer and underwent surgery to remove her kidney.
She lives in Utica, Ohio and is currently studying social work at Central Ohio Technical College and has plans to go to Mount Vernon Nazarene College next year to complete her studies. Cancer was not part a part of her plan.
But cancer was no stranger to Danielle. Many members of her family have had cancer including her grandmother, grandfather, mother, and sister. She has watched family members fight cancer, and has faced her own battle.This is her story:
In December of 2009 I kept having pains in my upper right adnominal that went around to the side. I made an appointment with my family physician, Dr. Brent Ogle in Mount Vernon, Ohio. I told him what was going on and he sent me to the hospital for a CAT scan. I received a call from the doctor a few hours later and he said that I had some kidney stones and that they also see a mass on my right kidney. At this point my stomach dropped and my nerves hit the roof. I was so scared! He said they were going to make me an appointment with urology at Ohio State University Hospital (OSU) in Columbus, Ohio.
A week later, I was seen by Dr. Box at the urology clinic in the OSU urology department. He told me he thought I just had a cyst and it could be drained. So my hopes went back up because I thought it was nothing too serious to worry about. Then before I left his office, he wanted to get an ultrasound of my kidney and do some blood work to be on the safe side.
Later that day I received a call from the urology department saying I needed to come back in as soon as possible to speak with the doctor. I was so nervous again at this point. When I arrived at the clinic the next day he said they had found a tumor on my right kidney. He told me it was my choice to go ahead and have surgery and just remove the tumor. I told him yes, get it out of there.
I had surgery on January 29, 2010. I had just turned 24 on Dec 28, 2009. I could not believe this was happening to me. Dr. Box told me it is very rare for a young person to have kidney problems and even more rare for a female. He said most of his patients he has seen are over the age of 40 and are male. I was so nervous before surgery all I kept thinking is, I do not want to die. I have to be here for my daughter and she needs her mommy. I would cry myself to sleep every night for the three weeks while I was waiting for my surgery to arrive.
When I arrived at the hospital they took me in a room and had me undress and get ready for surgery. They told me I was having laparoscopic surgery and that would be quicker recovery for me. My doctors said he was going to try and save half of my kidney. They were going to use the robotics machines to do the surgery. I ended up being in surgery for ten and a half hours because when they went in to do the laparoscopic surgery, they could not because the tumor was sitting on my blood stream. They ended up having to cut me open and remove the whole kidney.
When I woke up in recovery my left leg was so sore because they had me laying on it for 10 hours with no movement. They did blood work and said I had some muscle detereation in my leg. I had five incisions on my stomach. The one that hurt the worst was from the open surgery. It was so painful. This was probably the most painful surgery I have ever had. I was in the hospital for about a week. I was sent home on a walker and used it for about a month after surgery. Overall, the surgery went well though. My incisions healed great and the doctor said they removed all the cancer.
While in the hospital I received the pathology report and it said I had a very rare type kidney cancer. I had mucinous stimel cell carcinoma. My doctor said they have my file saved on their desktop to study this type of cancer because this is something they usually only read about. They don’t get to see it and study it. He told me it was a very rare type of cancer but the one good thing is, it usually does not come back. He told me to make an appointment for a three month check up. I did this and I canceled it twice because my nerves were so scared to go in and talk to him because I was afraid of getting bad news. Finally, on June 8, 2010, I made myself go see Dr. Box. He told me everything was looking good and they did an X-ray and told me if the results come back fine then to come back in six months for another check up.
I don’t think being diagnosed with cancer changed my life too much. It just made me more aware of making sure I drink more water and trying to keep my one kidney healthy. It does worry me that the other kidney will go bad and I will die, but I try not to think about it. My friends and family were very helpful to me after the surgery. Everyone now just can’t believe what I went through, being so young. I am just trying to look into the future and know that I’ll be okay and that I will be here for my daughter and myself. I think my cancer changed my mom the most. She is always worrying about what I am doing to and with my body and always giving me advice because she is so scared she will lose her little girl.
I am cancer free now! Thank the Lord! The only advice I can give to anyone who is on this journey of kidney cancer is to pray that everything will be alright and have faith. Just keep your head up and think positive! You can make it through this! Also, remember the best support you can have is from friends, family, and support groups.