Seeing Bad News in a New Light

Tuesday, 12 Aug 2014 04:01 PM

By Ronni Gordon

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One year ago this week, I was pacing around my kitchen, crying from some of the worst pain that I could ever remember. And considering what I’ve experienced in the past, that’s saying a lot.
 
It was early afternoon. I had just come home from the hospital after having surgery to remove a cancerous lesion on my kidney. I was taking a high dose of the opioid pain medication Dilaudid (hydromorphone), as well as extra strength Tylenol. But it wasn't working. I could hardly breathe. But I was afraid to take any more drugs.
 
I called the urologist who had performed my surgery. A receptionist said she would mark my message “Urgent.” But when an hour passed and I didn’t hear back, I called my regular nurse practitioner. I was so glad to hear her voice and to know that there was someone who would always call me back when I said it was important.
 
My nurse said it was okay to take more medicine. Someone from the urologist's office finally called back around 5:30 — when it was no help at all.
 
I thought of this story recently in the context of how something bad can sometimes turn out for the best. 
 
For instance, last May I was supposed to attend my cousin Nancy's 60th birthday party in California. But I developed double pneumonia and landed in the hospital on the very day I had expected to fly out of Boston.
 
During a 10-day hospitalization at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, I had a scan to determine the extent of my pneumonia. It showed something that would not have otherwise been found: a small lesion on my kidney.
 
The attending doctor told me that if the lesion turned out to be cancer, it was a miracle on top of the other miracles that had come my way. Finding it this early and by accident meant it could be removed before it had a chance to spread.
 
There is no routine screening for kidney cancer. Therefore, it’s usually only found after it’s too late to prevent it from spreading.
 
At the time, I found it hard to be as pleased as the doctor was, for my outpatient tests showed that it was indeed cancer. A surgery was scheduled for after I recovered from the pneumonia.
 
The surgery took care of the kidney lesion, and no further treatment was required.
 
It’s only now, a year later, that I am able to see my “miracle” in a different light.
 
By the way, I finally got to make that trip to California — and it was fabulous. I watched the America’s Cup and got to spend much more time sightseeing with my cousins than I would have otherwise.
 
And that surgery scar on my right side is now just another line on the roadmap of things I have survived.

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Ronni Gordon is a cancer survivor and long-time journalist who has written extensively about health issues and her personal journey. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and has written for The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and many other publications.
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