One More Thing: Kidney Disease and Lifestyle Change

I have gotten pretty good at rolling with the punches. I think any cancer patient has to be prepared to remain flexible and ready for the unexpected. But every now and again I still find myself caught off guard by the surprises cancer gives me.

Undersized and underperforming

Not long after my diagnosis, we noticed that my left kidney was undersized and underperforming. After having a nuclear scan done, we were able to confirm my left kidney was operating at 9 percent and my right kidney was working at 91 percent. Although my left was almost nonfunctioning, I was very lucky that my right had picked up the slack. Over the last year and a half, we have monitored my kidney function and noticed the left kidney was functioning less and less. My urologist recently referred me to a nephrologist just to get a specialized eye on the situation. She gave me the news that was not completely unexpected but also still made me wince to hear.

Snowball effect

I have stage 2 kidney disease. I am lucky that this isn’t due to low kidney function, but really just because my left kidney is done. My medical team believes that the location of my tumor before surgery had blocked off my left ureter and kidney for so long that it eventually was too damaged to rebound once my bladder was removed. I wasn’t surprised to get this diagnosis, but having the official notes on my chart still made me cringe.

Lifestyle change

Kidney disease is progressive. As my nephrologist noted, once your kidneys take a hit - they are never the same. As my one kidney is doing the work for two, the extra load will have an impact sometime down the road. Our goal is to use diet, exercise, and close monitoring to preserve and protect my right kidney as much as possible. If I am careful I could go many, MANY years before we need to make decisions regarding my kidneys.

Making progress

I started the DASH diet about a week ago upon my nephrologist’s recommendation. Essentially I need to limit sodium and reduce any intake of red meat. It took a little planning, but I have found the diet to be easy to follow. Although my labs have remained fantastic over the last year, my team and I are interested to see what changes may show at my next appointment.

One more thing...

The hardest part of navigating this additional diagnosis has been just that, it is one more thing. This is just one more thing on my plate to manage. I have yet another specialist monitoring my condition, another set of labs to be drawn each month, more things in my body I need to be aware of. And of course, one more thing that makes me an oddball in the bladder cancer community. How many thirty-year-old women have bladder cancer, 1 kidney, stage 2 kidney disease and participating in a clinical trial? It certainly makes for yet another fun story to tell.

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