Friday, November 02, 2007

What is... Wilms Tumor?

Named after Max Wilms, a doctor in Germany who first identified this type of cancer, Wilms tumor affects kidneys. In my case, the tumor had consumed my left kidney by the time I was diagnosed. This cancer affects maybe 500 people in the US a year- so it's not one of the more common cancers. The Wiki says that right now about 90% of patients survive at least five years post diagnosis.

Wow. This is so different from when I was diagnosed with this. Back then, it was a different story with oncologists trying everything in their power to fight it. The survival rate wasn't quite as high, although the majority of cases were and are found much earlier than I was. This is important because as with all other cancers, early detection is crucial to treatment options and favorable outcomes. Think of it like termite damage. The longer those termites are allowed to fill their bellies, the more damage will happen and the weaker the surrounding structure becomes. My cancer had spread to the right kidney and signs of it had been spotted on a few isolated lymphs. I was so weak when they operated that it was probable that I'd die on the table; but I would have died had they done nothing.

As I'm sitting here tonight it's been 24 years and a few months since then. Nearly a quarter century since all those years of chemo, of radiation, of learning how to deal with side affects that we didn't know would come out of it. I look back at the past, I look at the current knowledge we have of this disease. I'm incredibly grateful for what I have, what I might have lost.

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