What took my mom

3/22/2010 12:37:00 PM Ashley 5 Comments

Part of me has been dreading this post, while the other part of me knew I needed to do this. After all I did say this month was about my mom and it just so happens that the disease that took her is making March their awareness month.

What I am talking about is kidney cancer. There are a few different types, but the most common and what my mom had was renal cell carcinoma. I'm not going to go too much into it, because honestly those links will tell you a lot more than I ever could. What I will say is that this is a crappy hard to find cancer and not enough people know about it.

While I respect all cancers, because cancer just flat out sucks. I will say that there are so many cancers that are not getting the funding they need simply because they haven't become mainstream with beauty, fashion and home goods being sold to help the cause.

I had no idea that there was even a cancer that attacked the kidneys, but you can be damn sure that I was checking my breasts regularly (yes it's very important to do). I will say that I have been happy to see more coming out about other cancers. I've even noticed a change with TV commercials. The most recent one to catch my eye is a cervical cancer commercial.

How did my mom figure out she had cancer? It was a fluke really. She had be complaining about back pain. Pretty common. Even more common if you work retail and are on your feet all day. She called her doctor around July/August of 2005 to see if they could figure out something to do. Her doctor was out of town and couldn't see her for a week or so. My mom went out and bought inserts for her shoes to help her back. Then one night my father rushed her to the ER because she had kidney stones. Nothing too shocking, she had had them some years ago. This time though, they found a large mass on her left kidney.

I still remember the moment we heard that it was cancer. I'd like to give the doctor a swift kick in the balls for having the worst beside manor in the world. You don't just walk in and say "it's cancer" and then walk out.

This set off a search for what to do and a newer, better doctor. We found an amazing team at the University of Colorado Hospital. It's a teaching hospital and there always seemed to be new amazing things going on there. My mom had her left kidney removed laparoscopically by one of only three doctors that were able to do that procedure and he taught one of the other two). She then met with a second doctor who was the head of research for new kidney cancer drugs, because sadly kidney cancer doesn't take to normal radiation and chemotherapy.

They had high hopes for her, and for awhile they really worked. But then they stopped working.

On June 16, 2006 my mom lost her battle with stage IV renal cell carcinoma.

They say the cancer had probably been growing for about five years. Five years. All she had was back pain and then a kidney stone. It's likely that if she hadn't have had the stones, it would have never been found. Most symptoms are too generic to make people think that something is wrong. They still have no idea what really caused it in my mom, because one of the main causes is smoking. Maybe it was secondhand smoke, because my mom wasn't a smoker. And it seemed like they ruled out all of the other causes.

In less than a year I lost my mom. My best friend. The only person who really knew me and who I was and what I could become.

What do I do now, almost 4 years later? I talk about her, I talk about her fight. I donate. I wear a cheesy plastic bracelet (which my mom hated).

At our wedding our gift to our guests was a kidney cancer bracelet and a donation to the Kidney Cancer Association in my mom's memory.

I wear green proudly, because when my mom passed that was the color that the KCA was using. They have since changed their color to orange.

What do I ask of all of you?

Be kind to your kidneys. Know that smoking won't just affect your lungs. Get checked out if you think there is something wrong.

Be kind about other cancers. There are over 200 different types of cancer. Some are far worse then others, but in the end cancer is cancer. No one deserves to suffer.

Here are some great resources that have helped me...

Kidney Cancer Association
Know Cancer
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute

March is Kidney Cancer Awareness month and their awareness ribbon color is orange.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read this. It's not an easy topic for me to talk or write about, but it does help.


  1. So sorry to hear about your mom. I lost my mom last year to liver disease, and like your mom, it happened within a year. Glad you were able to turn it into something positive.

  2. I am glad you were able to write about this, hopefully it will help someone one day who reads this!

  3. The more I hear about your mom, the more sorry I am for your loss. She would be proud of your passion and the love you have for her. I think people don't realize just how close cancer can be to them sometimes, but it effects us all. Thank you for sharing the information you have on kidney cancer and continuing to be proactive.

  4. This was really beautifully written and informative. I am so sorry that you lost your mom to Kidney Cancer. Thank you for posting the links to help educate others.