My journey with kidney cancer, Catherine McFarlane
Through the course of my work, I come across people every day who have health challenges related to their kidneys. I am an accredited practicing dietitian and PhD scholar who works with patients who have chronic kidney disease.
In July 2016, aged 38, I went from juggling the roles of wife, mother, daughter, sister and dietitian to someone who could add cancer to the list of their daily juggles and struggles.
Within weeks of relocating our family of three children and two miniature schnauzers to the Sunshine Coast, a right kidney mass was incidentally detected on routine ultrasound.
I waited fewer than five days to see a wonderful health professional: urologist Dr Greg Malone. In the short time I waited for advice and a management plan, I grappled with the fear and anxiety of the unknown. Dr Malone confirmed published statistics that more than 80 per cent of solid kidney masses are malignant tumours. Some of the imaging findings favoured a benign lesion and we were extremely hopeful this was the case. The only way to differentiate between benign and malignant tumours was either by biopsy or surgical resection. I elected to undergo surgical resection.
I cannot describe the fear and anxiety I experienced in the three weeks awaiting surgery. I was terrified. Overwhelmingly, I feared for my future and that of my husband and children.
Somehow, despite fearing a diagnosis of cancer, fearing the unknown, fearing the surgery itself, and fearing post-operative pain, I made it to the day of surgery. It went smoothly and I recovered well. Unfortunately, the pathology results confirmed the tumour was a renal cell carcinoma. I am, however, very fortunate it was detected early and was small enough that a partial nephrectomy was undertaken. This provides me with the best chance of maintaining normal renal function while removing the cancer in its entirety. So far so good. I have had my first round of surveillance scans and my second are looming. I hope the fear in the lead up to these appointments diminishes with time, as I know there are plenty more ahead.
I had never really considered that I would have any significant health conditions. I have always tried to maintain a reasonable level of health and fitness. I really enjoy running and had completed my second half marathon only three weeks before the tumour was found. I was certainly not expecting a cancer diagnosis.
I really enjoy running and had completed my second half marathon only three weeks before the tumour was found. I was certainly not expecting a cancer diagnosis.
I have started running again and have signed up for my third half marathon at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon in July. I am very lucky to be surrounded by an incredible group of family and friends who supported me through my surgery. Their support extends to walking and running over the Gold Coast Marathon weekend.
I was amazed when I read some of the literature surrounding kidney cancer
Kidney cancer is the 10th most common cancer diagnosis in Australia.
Kidney cancer often has no symptoms in the early stages, with the majority of cancers detected by chance. There is currently no treatment, beyond surgery, to prevent the return of kidney cancer. Treatment options are limited when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
I want to raise the profile of kidney cancer in an effort to generate additional funds for research. If you would like to help support this cause, you can donate via the following link or directly to ANZUP.
I will update you later in the year on the status of our fundraising has gone and whether anyone managed a PB over the weekend!
Finally, I could not tell this story without publicly thanking those who have helped me through the past 10 months or so
Mark, my amazing husband, my best friend. You have been by my side, kept me calm and provided endless amounts of encouragement.
My children; Xavier, Thomas and Isabelle – you are the light of my life. We love you and are so proud of you
Our family – Mum and Dad, Duncan and Susan, James and Marie. You have been a constant source of support and you dropped everything to look after us all. We are so lucky to have you.
Our friends – everyone who called, emailed, popped in, cooked food, visited in hospital, visited after hospital and generally looked after us: we are so grateful for your support.