Leading up to Diagnosis
Before my diagnosis, I found myself about 35 pounds overweight and decided to do something about it. Over six months, through diet, exercise, and very little alcohol, I lost 40 pounds. I felt the best I had in years. I had no symptoms or reason to think something was wrong. I was in great condition.
My diagnosis happened somewhat randomly. Our Union President went to a screening hosted by our State Association and decided to host one for our department. It was optional, and anyone from the department could sign up. Reluctantly, I decided to sign up. DetecTogether sponsors and encourages regular screenings.
The original ultrasound results were somewhat concerning because one of the results was a fatty mass on my left kidney. I received these results during the DetecTogether presentation at our firehouse. 3 Steps Detect and the advice from firefighter Joe Marchetti teaching the DetecTogether class impacted how I handled the news. Cancer found early can be very treatable. Hearing Brockton firefighter Joe Marchetti’s story encouraged me not to wait or delay calling my doctor.
I wasn’t sure what to think from all the findings, but I thought it would be fine, and I would just let my primary doctor know. My doctor wanted to explore the findings and ordered a second ultrasound. Those findings were similar: Lipoma was visible on my left kidney, but the results still indicated a fatty mass. The radiologist suggested a CT, and we scheduled it for the following week. The CT identified a 2.1 cm tumor consistent with Renal Cell Carcinoma. I was then referred to a Urology Specialist at Yale New Haven, who confirmed the cancer diagnosis through a biopsy and determined that partially removing the impacted section of my kidney would be the best option.
I honestly was afraid to go to the first ultrasound hosted by my department. All I could think about was what I would do if the scan showed something. I even regretted it on my way home from the scan. Thankfully, I went, and they found the tumor early.
My advice is just to go and get checked. My doctors and I were grateful for finding the cancer early, as it typically does not show symptoms until it is much worse. I am now three weeks post-op. My cancer was resected with clean margins. After a couple of months of healing, I can return to duty and will only need periodic scans in the future.
Having a solid support system and not being afraid to accept help and say what you need is essential. My wife Kelly and daughter Catherine were both so supportive and gave me the strength to power through and focus on getting better.
- no recognized symptoms