Jill Lewis, 38
Renal Cell Carcinoma (Kidney Cancer), Diagnosed February 2010
My cancer story: My day started like any other day. It was a Friday in February 2010. I didn't feel well that day and had a severe headache that wouldn't go away. I suspected it was my blood pressure. I went to the ER where I was admitted for the weekend. While in the hospital, with my sister's insistence, more tests were run. (Ultimately it was with these suggested tests that my cancer was found.) Sunday came, and as I was being discharged, the doctor told me that I needed to see a urologist. The appointment was already scheduled for me to go in two days.
The day came for me to go to the urologist. I was sitting in his office, at 34 years old, and he told me I have Stage 1 Renal Cell Carcinoma (kidney cancer). After consulting the urologist and the oncologist, the decision was made to have a partial nephrectomy immediately. This would consist of removing parts of my kidney that were infected with cancer. The doctors could not be sure how much would be removed until they were actually in surgery. Only after surgery would we know if I needed chemotherapy or radiation.
On March 16, 2010 I had a partial nephrecotomy. The result of the surgery was the removal of 20 percent of my right kidney. The surgery was a success. I was in the hospital a week, and there would be months of recovery. This is where my story should end. However, the night before I was to leave the hospital, I developed four pulmonary embolisms in my lungs. This gave me another battle to overcome, putting me in ICU for another week.
I have been cancer free for three and a half years. I continue to get periodic CT scans, X-rays and blood work.
Caregiver shout-out: My amazing family was my rock. My parents and siblings were and continue to be my source of strength and support. They helped me physically, mentally and emotionally. Cancer not only changed my life, but the lives of my family. I can't express enough how much I love, thank, and appreciate them.
Lessons learned on your cancer journey: I have learned a few things throughout my cancer battle. You don't know what a cancer patient truly goes through unless you or a loved one experiences it. I have also learned what it means to be a cancer survivor. Never take life or your loved ones for granted. Know the importance of each day, and be thankful every morning for the gift of life. Cherish the things you can control, and accept the things you cannot. You are stronger than you realize. Never be ashamed of a scar. It simply means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you. Now more than ever the following quote represents how I live my life: "Live every moment, laugh every day, and love beyond words."
Message to newly diagnosed and patients in treatment: The first two emotions you will feel when a doctor tells you that you have cancer are surprise and fear. All other emotions are immediately going to kick in and the tears will start to flow. As time goes on, included in these emotions will be anger. These emotions and reactions are all normal to feel, but don't let them overtake you life. There is hope. Surround yourself with family and friends. Be positive and thankful for the good things you have. Don't t let the cancer define you or your life.
Jill walks every year in the Riders For A Cure Mini Relay and Relay For Life of Belmont County events. She is involved with the Riders For A Cure Relay team. Relay For Life 2014 will take place June 13-14 at St. Clairsville Red Devil Stadium. If you are a survivor or would like to get involved with Relay For Life, please visit www.relayforlife.org/belmontcounty.