Be the Boss Over Cancer

by Brian K. on December 23, 2009
I was Diagnosed with:
Renal Cell Carcinoma (Kidney Cancer)
Date of Diagnosis:
May 13, 2005
Employment Status:
Manager Independent Living Community (55+)
Type and Description of Treatments:
My name is Brian Kay; I am 42 years young and married to my beautiful wife Kadi. We have lived in Key West, Florida since October of 2004. My wife Kadi has always wanted to live here and we love it. I am the Executive Chef at the Ocean Key Resort & Spa. It is a beautiful boutique hotel, which is situated right on the Atlantic Ocean. It is hard to imagine being paid to do what I love to do in a place like Key West. I have always been active and healthy, never sick a day in my life aside from the annual cold. On May 13, 2005 I was at work, a fairly busy day at the hotel when I went to the restroom. I was very shocked when I looked down and saw a very steady stream of blood in my urine. It really set me back as I did not know what it meant. I just knew it wasn’t normal. I immediately went upstairs to my office and called my wife and explained what had happened and asked her what it meant. “It means I am coming to pick you up and take you to the doctor.” Kadi picked me up in front of the hotel. At this point I was really getting uncomfortable unable to urinate with the exception of a few drops of blood. We got to Dr. Burton’s office in a matter of fifteen minutes. He took me right in and asked for a urine sample. I tried, still unable to fulfill the request. He performed a very brief examination and was concerned that I had some sort of blockage. He wanted me to leave and call him in the next couple of hours if I could not urinate. I went back to work, uncomfortable and I was beginning to think I had kidney stones or something like that. It was now two hours later and still no luck. I called Dr. Burton and explained to him that I was back at work and still unable to go. He was in disbelief that I had gone back to work. He said he told me to go home lay down and to get off of my feet. I did not hear that: perhaps I didn’t want to hear it. I was immediately referred to Dr. Gonzalez who is a well-respected Urologist here in Key West. My wife and I sat in the waiting room. I could not sit still as I felt like I was going to pop, as I still have not been able to urinate. After fifteen minutes or so one of the nurses came out and brought me back to one of the examination rooms. I was asked to take off my shorts and lie down on the table. It seemed like an eternity as I had to pee so bad it was really painful. I was sweating and the color in my face was changing for the worse. Dr. Gonzalez had walked in the door a few minutes later and introduced himself. I began to explain to him my morning and afternoon up until now. He told me that he wanted to put a catheter in me to allow me to urinate. I knew what a catheter was but had never had one put inside of me and was not looking forward to it. At this point, the catheter was a last resort. Dr. Gonzales had ordered a CT scan and sent Kadi and I over to the Key West Diagnostics Center. As I said earlier, I had never been sick a day in my life and this was all new to me and a little unsettling. Upon arrival, I was asked to don a hospital gown and was escorted to the back room where one of the technicians was waiting for me. She was very nice and immediately put me at ease. She proceeded to ask if I had had a CT scan before and I explained to her that this was my first time and to be gentle with me. She laughed out loud and promised she would be. She then explained the process to me and it seemed painless, when it comes to pain I am a 6’3” 220 pound baby. She then told me that she was going to inject iodine into my veins. This would help illuminate the internal parts of my body on film and help to identify anything abnormally wrong. Upon the injection I first noticed a metallic taste in my mouth, then a warming sensation throughout my entire body unlike anything I had ever felt before. I was slid back into the revolving hole known as the CT scanner. It spun at a very high rate and made a bit of a high pitched whining sound. This machine read me like a book and told the story of my life to that point. Once done at the Diagnostic Center, it was back to Dr. Gonzalez to have my first ever catheter inserted. After the procedure Dr. Gonzalez wrote a prescription for antibiotics and something to thin out my blood to relieve the clots that were beginning to form. I was sent home with strict orders to have complete bed rest until the next morning when Dr. Gonzalez would have had an opportunity to see what was causing the blood and difficulty in urinating. Kadi and I thought the worst was over. It was Friday the 13th, Kadi and I arrived back at the doctor’s office the next morning as requested, however the nurses were acting differently as if they did not want to look us in the eye or maybe we were just imagining that they were. We waited fifteen minutes or so and we went back to one of the consultation rooms. In came the doctor with the films and he proceeded to flip the switch on the light board so he could begin to look at the results of the CT scan. I kept leaving the room as I had to pee like a racehorse without success. He put the first couple of films on the light board one after the other not saying much at that point. One of the next few slides would change our lives forever. The very next slide Dr. Gonzalez’s eyes opened up a bit wider. Then came the big blow. He turned to Kadi and me, looked us in the eyes and said “I don’t quite know how to say this but Brian has a malignant tumor on his left kidney and it must be removed.” He said he had a patient in the next room, which he had to finish up with, and he would be back in ten minutes or so as he wanted to spend all of the necessary time walking us through this. He walked out of the room and Kadi grabbed me and began to cry on my shoulder. It hadn’t yet sunk in yet, the news which I wish nobody will ever have to hear, “you have cancer”. It almost felt like the blood in my body was flowing the wrong way. It was a numbing sensation looked at Kadi and told her that it was just a bump in the road and we would get through it”. Dr. Gonzalez returned nearly an hour later, the longest hour of our lives with instructions that we had to act quickly and he wanted us to go back to the Diagnostic Center for more CT Scans from head to toe, specifically looking at the heart area since there also seemed to indicate a Thrombus (a blood clot). At the time I did not understand the seriousness of a thrombus since Dr. Gonzalez was telling us that while we were gone he would be placing calls to three specialists to help us with hospitalization and surgery. He hoped to speak with his mentor during medical school that would help us to select the best surgeon and oncologist. So off I went with Kadi to have yet another series of CT Scans we were asked by Dr. Gonzalez to wait for the films and bring them right back to his office. When we arrived at the diagnostics center they took me right in. I went into the back and I then dawned the fashionable hospital gown and went in for my scan. The technician who administered my original scan the day before. She told me she knew the results of the scans. She was processing them and saw the tumor; it seemed to be larger than the kidney attached to it. At that time, I lay down on the cold slab covered with only a sheet and it began to slide back and read my body once again. It was relatively quick and painless. I was given a hug from the technician as she wished me all the best with my surgical procedure and recovery; she knew the road which lay ahead was going to be a difficult one. In the meantime, Dr. Gonzales had made some phone calls and had me set up at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami with some of the finest doctors available. This facility is part of the University of Miami Medical School. Being a teaching hospital, Jackson is one of the most technologically advanced facilities in the country if not the world. We met people who came from all over the world seeking the best doctors and techniques a hospital could offer. As I would soon find out, they were the best around. On May 16th, Kadi and I drove up to Miami where we would meet the man who would ultimately head up the group of highly skilled doctors, surgeons, and nurses. I laid down in the back of the Land Rover in the make shift bed which Kadi had made for the drive up as I was to be vertical for the trip. Dr. Bruce Kava was performing surgery at Jackson Memorial that afternoon and we had arranged to meet him in the emergency room. Kadi and I negotiated the maze which was made up of hospitals and medical facilities on our way to meet Dr. Kava. Once we found our way to the emergency room we were overwhelmed not only with the amount of people in need of medical attention, some more critical than others. I recall a man laying on a gurney with a gun shot wound being told that it would be at least six more hours before he could see a doctor. At that point I knew we were in the wrong place. We tried to have Dr. Kava paged as per his request. Kadi had no luck as the nurse at the desk refused to page him as she had never heard of him. Kadi picked up my cell phone and called Dr. Kava’s assistant Eva. She proved to be very instrumental during the entire ordeal. Eva recommended we drive across the street to Cedars Medical Center to the emergency room where Dr. Kava would meet us when he was done in surgery. We waited for hours before they brought us back to a bed and took a blood sample and my vitals. We waited for a while longer. It was almost ten o’clock at night when in walked the doctor. He immediately put Kadi and I at ease with his bedside manner and reassurance that things were going to be alright. He first asked how I was feeling. I was in no pain and the only discomfort I was experiencing was the catheter I was wearing. Kadi handed Dr. Kava the oversized envelope which contained all of the films from my x-rays and CT Scans, he left us to go back and review them. Returning about fifteen minutes later he confirmed all that he had heard of my case. He instructed us to see him the following day at his office which was right across the street in the Professional Building on the third floor. The next morning we first saw one of the nurses who removed my catheter. It was a great relief which I knew would not last for very long as my suspicion was I would have another one put in after the surgery. Dr. Kava came in and explained in great detail what would transpire in the coming days and week leading up to the day of my surgery. After we finished up with Dr. Kava we were introduced to Anna, she is the Surgical Coordinator. Her office is small and her desk cluttered with papers, calendars and pictures of her two children and husband. The phone continued to ring off the hook while we sat while she checked the availability of the operating room, the necessary equipment and the three surgical teams who would all play a crucial role in my surgery. We were given the date of May 24th with surgery commencing at 8:00am. Across the street at Jackson Memorial Hospital we were pre-registered, a pre check-in of sorts. We were told that I needed to be back at the hospital at 6:00am on May 24th. On Wednesday May 18th I was scheduled to meet with the Cardiologist, Dr. Ferriera at the Sylvester Cancer Research Center. I was evaluated by the doctor with the basic questions about my health prior to my diagnosis, checking my weight, blood pressure and pulse. Dr. Ferriera had ordered me to undergo an EKG, Electro Cardiogram and an Ultra Sound. I was fascinated to see my heart beating on the computer screen next to me as my chest was dotted with electrodes. Something interesting was seen during the ultra sound. What I have is called “Bicuspid Aortic Valve”. Normally the valve has three “Leaflets” and I was born with only two. I had no idea. It is not vital that I have all three leaflets. The doctors say that in another twenty or so years I may need to have some sort of procedure to alleviate any sort of complications which my arise. While we were waiting to see the doctor and my tests, Kadi met Margaret, a woman who would become a great support to Kadi during what would soon prove to be a very difficult time in our lives. She was there with her cousin who was just recently diagnosed with cancer herself. She and Kadi immediately hit it off and would soon become life long friends. With all of Margaret’s adversity of caring for her home bound husband who is in the later stages of Parkinson’s disease, she was always there when Kadi called and needed someone to talk to. Margaret sat with Kadi for the entire 17 ½ hours of my surgery and continues to be one of our closest and dearest friends. Today, six years later, I am happy to say I am cancer free. I am currently working towards my Masters Degree in Holistic Nutrition as I feel that so much was done to help me I have a need to give back. Nutrition plays such a huge role in not only the prevention but also in the recovery after cancer.
How do you feel today?

I have since gone to eating a vegetarian, plant-based diet and feel better that I have ever felt before.

I am also drinking ionized alkaline water. This is produced with the latest in water technology. This is a machine that is government approved as a medical device and is available here in the United States and many other parts of the world. This machine is used in all of the major hospitals in Japan, especially those which treat cancer patients.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?

Everything has changed. While I was in the hospital after my surgery, I told my wife Kadi that I did not want to go back to working in the kitchen as an Executive Chef. It seemed so "trivial". I wanted to help people, especially those who have been diagnosed with this preventable, treatable and beatable disease. I am also working on my Masters Degree in Holistic Nutrition as I know that nutrition plays an important role in the prevention as well as the recovery of cancer.

What is going well for you right now?

Life is Good!!!!!!!!!

I am maintaining an "A" average on my way to my Masters Degree in Holistic Nutrition.

My wife and I have been married for 25 years now and are closer than ever if that is even possible.

What is not going well for you right now?

Nothing, everything is great! I am very blessed.

What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?

Having to go back every six months for a CT scan. I hate having the contrast run through my body as it is not good for you and is seemingly a necessary evil in this test.

When difficulties overwhelm you, where do you go for support?

Without question my wife. Kadi is my best friend, my confidant and my inspiration!

How have your long-term goals or life goals changed since diagnosis?

I don't take anything for granted. I wake up eachday and thank the man upstairs for my beautiful wife and a second chance to make a difference in the world. This is why I am working on my Masters Degree in Holistic Nutrition. I am going to open a practice and help people with their nutritional life.

What is your work arrangement right now? What are your hours?

Work is back to normal. I am not working the "killer" hours anymore, they are not worth my life!

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your work life?

I have changed carrers. I am not working as a professional chef any longer.

What advice do you have for others trying to work through treatment?

As strange as it sounds, know that cancer happened to you for a reason. I can't tell you what the reason is, you will find out when the time is right just as I did. It will make you a better person, a better husband or wife, a better brother or sister or a better friend when someone needs a real friend. During cancer you find out who your real friends are. They are the ones who stick by you from begining to end.

How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?

Fortunatly I did not have to undergo any treatment other than the 17 1/2 hour surgery which included the removal of my left kidney along with the tumor and thrombus.

If "today's you" could give advice to "day-of-diagnosis you," what would you say?

The same thing I acutally told my wife the moment I was told "you have cancer" and that is "it's just a bump in the road and we will get through it".