About The Kidney Cancer Chronicles
ABOUT THIS BLOG
This blog is written by Chris and Dena Battle. It was established to keep our family and friends up to date about my health. As more individuals have visited the site — friends literally from around the world and many of whom I’ve never met but are fighting this same disease — we decided that the blog could be something more. It could be a place where we could share our experiences — what wisdom we’ve gained, what mistakes we’ve made — with others who are undergoing this same struggle. For those who are recently diagnosed, perhaps my experiences can shed some light on this disease, offer some thoughts on questions to ask your doctors or provide some background to help you make your own decisions. For those who have struggled with kidney cancer for some time, perhaps you can share some of your own tips discovered along the way.
ABOUT CHRIS BATTLE
I was diagnosed in March of 2009 with renal cell carcinoma — more popularly known as kidney cancer. Like many kidney cancers, mine was an “incidental” finding. There are often no signs of disease with kidney cancer, as the kidney is hidden away behind other organs, making it a silent killer. In my case I went to the emergency room for what was thought to be appendicitis. After a CT scan, the results came back: Good news, no appendicitis; bad news, cancer. Even worse news: the painkillers were weak.
The tumor was over 11 cm long, roughly the size of a grapefruit. It has overtaken my entire kidney. As the history recorded in this blog (under Personal Health Updates) shows, I immediately underwent a radical nephrectomy in which the removed my entire kidney along with some biological detritus. The cancer, however, was not thought to have spread beyond the kidney and I was declared not only Stage II but also “cured!” It’s a common boast among urologists, I’ve found. I was told not to worry, forget about it and move on with life. Except, sometimes there’s that nagging doubt. After a consult with an oncologist, who suggested my urologist was overly optimistic, and then a CT scan we discovered, within a few months, that the cancer had spread to my lungs and I heroically vaulted from Stage II to Stage IV just like that. (You can read more about this episode in “The Fat Man of Cancer.”) You can read the details in my blog posts, but from that point forward I have undergone various treatments — including IL-2, lung surgery, MDX-1106 and Sutent — without yet grasping that holy grail of cancer patients: No Evidence of Disease. I still have plenty of evidence, in my lungs and my lymphatic system, but continue to fight it with ongoing medical therapies and a decent dose of optimism and humor. Most of the time, anyway.
ABOUT DENA BATTLE
Dena’s stubbornness and general belief that she knows more than most doctors — she did earn her medical degree at Google University — saved my life. Early in our fight against cancer, she refused the recommended treatment option of our first oncologist. Actually, she first refused the treatment option of our urologist, who confused himself with an oncologist. She also dropped our second urologist when he also advised against a more aggressive surveillance program. In her posts, you will learn why she took this position, and also that she was right. Dena chews and spits out urologists the way our two daughters chew and spit out most of the home-cooked meals we, um, buy at the local grocery store.
Dena is proof of the power — and absolute necessity — that any cancer patient have not only a caregiver but also an advocate. They don’t necessarily have to be the same person, but each role is critical to patient’s successful navigation of the difficult journey ahead. I am lucky in that Dena serves both roles with ferocious determination and good humor. Had she not been there for me and forced these decisions with the doctors, I would have simply followed their advice. I don’t think I’m unlike many patients in this regard. Blind faith, in man at least, can be a dangerous thing. Patients themselves are often overwhelmed by the news of their disease. Words spoken tend to be muted. You sit there and nod your head while thoughts and images swirl around in it. Advocates do not nod. They are not distracted by shiny objects. They listen and, when appropriate, ask for other opinions. They make sure you’re not lost in the horribly fragmented system we call health care today.
As a caregiver, and there is no more important person in your treatment and recovery than your caregiver, Dena has suffered through every knife stuck in my torso, every biopsy needle, every nausea-fueled night, every fainting, hallucination, kidney failure, blood-pressure dive, blistering rash, and temper tantrum. She chastises me about not standing up too quickly, which often results in fainting spells. She chides me on days I work too late and am struggling with particularly harsh bouts of fatigue. She nags me about eating more to counteract the weight loss. And I love her for it.
ABOUT MY INSPIRATION: KATE AND JOSIE
Kate Battle, daughter and future lawyer/marine biologist:
Kate was only 5 years old when I was first diagnosed. While I was still hospitalized she came to visit before going down to Savannah to stay with my parents while I recovered. She told me that if I got lonely while she was gone, I could look out the window at the moon and she would do the same and we could be together. Today I can’t look at the moon without thinking of her.
Josie Battle, daughter and future world dictator:
Josie wasn’t even a year old when I was diagnosed and underwent surgery. That didn’t stop her from trying to rip out the tubing in my body to make a spot for herself on my hospital bed. She’s been a divinely destructive force in my life ever since, god bless her. Her energy will keep me focused for years to come.