Kidney cancer, but you’re too fat for the correct surgery.

Suzy writes:

I am a large woman. I make no bones about it, I am not just obese but what is considered Super Size albeit it in a Fun Size height. In other words, short and round. Last year, I came down with
cellulitis in my abdomen, radiating out from my navel. As it started on the weekend and the first signs were bleeding from my navel that we couldn’t stop, my husband took me to the Emergency Room.
As soon as I was triaged the nurse took me straight back, within a few minutes a doctor saw me, started antibiotics and told me I needed to have a CT scan done to confirm that I did not have an abcess in my abdomen causing the bleeding. Unfortunately the hospital I was at just didn’t have a CT scanner large enough to hold me. The amazing ER doctor worked it out for me to be transferred to the closest hospital that had a scanner I would fit in and made it so my insurance would cover it. The man was a genius, and as it turns out him forcing the scan saved my life.
The scan was done, I was getting ready to be released and the doctors came in to talk to me. “You have no abcess, the infection is waining, ohh, you have a large mass on your right kidney, call your
Holy shit. Mass on my kidney. I got home called my PCP, saw her, was referred to a nephrologist, who referred me to a urologist, as it is actually urologists who perform kidney surgeries. Now, I had to have an MRI to confirm that the mass was cancer. While 98% of kidney masses are, they didn’t want to take any chances as I was only 33 which was extremely young for kidney cancer. That began the search of a lifetime. The nurse in my doctor’s office, and me, spend several days calling everywhere within the state we could find to find a place where I could have an MRI. Even the place where I had an MRI on my foot the year prior refused to do it, and I knew I fit in their MRI.
Eventually one place recommended we call a zoo. Yes, a zoo. How fucking humiliating is that? Plus, it is actually a myth that zoos have MRI machines for their larger animals as the machines are entirely too pricey for a zoo to have.
Moving on, I eventually found a place several hours from home, they did the MRI, were completely respectful, sent me home with the CD of the images immediately.
Then began the real struggle. The hospital where my Urologist practiced refused to allow my nephrectomy to be done there. They stated they didn’t have a table to hold me. This is the hospital I had my foot surgery on the year prior. I actually weighed less at this point, still they refused.
My doctor was shocked and suggested that I go to Johns Hopkins as they were one of the best in the country at treating Renal cell cancer. Johns Hopkins was quite a way from my home, my husband set
up time off of work, we booked a motel room and drove up.
The next morning we got to the hospital, got registered, found our way to the office of Dr. Rodriguez and were ushered back fairly quickly.
As soon as he walked in I knew something was wrong. He immediately said he would only do a cryoablation of my tumor. Now, had my tumor actually been less than 4 centimeters that would have been fine, but my tumor was well over that size. I asked him why and he replied “Your size, it would be too dangerous to do a nephrectomy.” He refused to even try. I questioned him further and he stated “I had one patient your size, who was much older but, your size, and he did poorly after surgery. He spent quite a bit of time in a rehab center after his nephrectomy.”
My reply was of course that I was much younger, and therefor would more likely have an easier outcome. Again he refused. At that point I became hysterical, we left his office, and went to pay my copay. We got back in our vehicle and headed back to my urologist as fast as we could. He was flabbergasted and referred me to the doctors where he did his residency. Luckily, while they scared me to death about the possibility of dying from the surgery due to my size, he was at least
willing to do it.
In the long run all this running about delayed my surgery almost two months. It doesn’t seem to have made a difference in my outcome but we’ll never know if that extra two months allowed a cell or two to escape my tumor.
Now, I still see my urologist, Dr. Berry, on a regular basis. While he doesn’t ignore my weight, he treats me as a person first. I would recommend him to anyone, and in fact have, as he is truly a
physician who looks out for his patients’ well being.

Suzy Smith
RCC found Sept 08,
Right open nephrectomy on December 1
“odd” looking right adrenal gland at first scan.
Second scan adrenal unchanged, nothing else found.
Third scan, adrenal still odd looking but unchanged.
Moving on to every 6 months scans soon.
Stage 1b Fuhrman 2
Multiple incisional hernias waiting on repair.

Leave a comment


  1. bloomingpsycho

     /  October 7, 2009

    If only physicians would treat the presenting problem rather than going on and on about a person’s size, how much nicer things would be.
    We big people know we’re big. We don’t need constant reminders of it from medical personnel.
    It was ridiculous to make you jump through all these hoops. I’m glad you finally go the surgery you needed.

  2. littlem

     /  October 7, 2009

    Suzy – did you see this post?

  3. MargB

     /  October 7, 2009

    OMG! Suzy – I really hope it all continues to go well. No-one should go through what you did but I’m really glad you had support from at least some of the doctors you encountered.

  4. Piffle

     /  October 7, 2009

    Oh wonderful, kidney cancer is soooo much less dangerous than proper treatment.

  5. littlem, GG actually contacted me through Facebook today about it. I don’t have a problem with using my name or weight so we are setting up a phone interview for next week.

    In fact, that’s how I knew my story was up here. 🙂


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