A Kidney Cancer Survivor's Resilience
- ‘General Hospital’ star Cameron Mathison, 52, was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer, in 2019. He also lost his mother to brain cancer last year.
- He recently made a post about focusing on “our mindset” in order to stay “happy and positive in the face of adversity.”
- According to one of our experts, kidney cancer is most often found when doctors are performing scans for a reason other than suspected kidney cancer.
- Resilience is not an uncommon trait amongst cancer warriors. Danielle Ripley-Burgess, a two-time colon cancer survivor, says her cancer journey helped her uncover “some beautiful things: Wisdom. Love. Life purpose. Priorities.”
Mathison was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer, in 2019. Doctors found his tumor after he self-requested an MRI because he’d been dealing with fatigue and stomach issues for years. He then had the tumor removed and doctors did not find any indication his cancer had spread, which meant he didn’t need chemotherapy or radiation treatments.Read More
He’s since received ‘all clears’ on his cancer check-ups, but he also had to watch his mother battle brain cancer. In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Mathison said he wanted to spend “every second” with his 79-year-old mother, Loretta, who had been battling brain cancer since January 2020. She underwent radiation and chemotherapy for almost two years all throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. She’d also had multiple surgeries that took a huge toll on her brain.
“She’s had it really, really tough,” Mathison previously told SurvivorNet. “A lot tougher than my journey. It’s hard because when it’s brain cancer obviously they have to take parts of the brain out. You lose a lot when that happens.”
Sadly, Mathison shared in October that his mother had passed away.
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“Mom, you left this world a better place,” he wrote in a social media post. “You were there for me in my absolute toughest times, and celebrated all my successes with so much love and enthusiasm.
“I have so many beautiful and incredible memories I don’t even know where to start🙏🏼 You will always be with me in my heart.”
But despite all of his hardships with cancer, Mathison has always managed to look at the positives in life.
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“Look for the magic in every moment,” he wrote in a recent Instagram post. “It’s been easy to do while shooting this movie, working with incredible people… in beautiful northern Ontario.”
He went on to say how important it is to stay positive whenever we’re faced with adversity.
“When we’re faced with challenging days, it’s our mindset that can keep us happy and positive in the face of adversity,” he wrote.
Understanding Cameron Mathison’s Cancer: Kidney Cancer
Kidney cancer develops when cells in the kidneys – a pair of bean-shaped organs each about the size of a fist – begin to grow out of control. Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is the most common type of kidney cancer with about 9 out of 10 kidney cancers being RCCs.
It is estimated that about 79,000 new cases of kidney cancer (50,290 in men and 28,710 in women) will be diagnosed in the United States for 2022, so here are some signs of the disease to look out for:
- Blood in the urine (hematuria)
- Low back pain on one side (not caused by injury)
- A mass (lump) on the side or lower back
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss not caused by dieting
- Fever that is not caused by an infection and doesn’t go away
- Anemia (low red blood cell counts)
According to UCLA Health, kidney cancer can metastasize, or spread, to any part of the body through the blood or lymphatic system. When that happens, the first signs of cancer may not be specific to your kidneys.
Symptoms of metastatic kidney cancer may cause symptoms in the newly affected areas of the body including:
- The lungs, causing cough and shortness of breath
- The bones, resulting in bone pain or fracture
- The brain, presenting as headaches, confusion or seizures
That being said, all of these signs do not necessarily mean you have cancer. Still, you should always bring up any changes to your health with your doctors.
“Traditionally, kidney cancer was diagnosed in people coming in with blood in the urine, a mass [in the] belly that was big enough that you could feel, or pain on that side,” Dr. Geoffrey Sonn, a urologic oncologist with Stanford Hospital and Clinics, previously told SurvivorNet. “More recently – because of the great increase in the use of imaging with ultrasound, CAT scans, MRI – most kidney cancers [are] diagnosed incidentally, meaning a scan is done for another reason.”
Dr. Sonn says doctors finding a mass seen on imaging done for another reason is “the most common presentation” of the disease. Some patients without symptoms might discover their cancer through scans done for unrelated reasons, and other might discover the cancer after a scan to investigate abdominal pain. Either way, it’s important to stay up to date on check ups and speak with your doctors about any possible signs of something being wrong.
“For localized kidney cancer, for relatively small masses that have not metastasized, most often patients feel nothing, and this is found on a scan done for another reason,” he said. “For larger masses of the kidney they may have pain on that side, they may see blood in the urine or a routine urine test may show a microscopic amount of blood in the urine that’s not enough to be seen visually but still will prompt further testing with imaging that shows the kidney cancer.”
The Resilience of Cancer Warriors
At SurvivorNet, we get to share stories of resilience all the time because there’s no shortage of brave cancer warriors holding onto hope in the face of adversity and achieving amazing things.
Danielle Ripley-Burgess, a two-time colon cancer survivor, is another resilient cancer survivor like O’Brien. She was first diagnosed with colon cancer in high school and proceeded to beat the disease not once, but twice.
Understandably so, Ripley-Burgess has had to work through a lot of complex emotions that came with her cancer journey. Even still, she’s always managed to look at life with a positive attitude.
“As I’ve worked through the complex emotions of cancer, I’ve uncovered some beautiful things: Wisdom. Love. Life purpose. Priorities,” she previously told SurvivorNet. “I carry a very real sense that life is short, and I’m grateful to be living it! This has made me optimistic. Optimism doesn’t mean that fear, pain and division don’t exist – they do. Our world is full of negativity, judgment, and hate. Optimism means that I believe there’s always good to be found despite the bad, and this is what my life is centered around.”
She moves through life with a sense of purpose unique to someone who’s been faced with the darkest of times. Happily in remission today, she’s determined to, one day, leave the world better than she found it.
“We can choose to stay positive, treat others with respect and look for the light in spite of the darkness,” she said. “This type of attitude and behavior will lead to the kind of legacies I believe all of us hope to leave.”