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How long does it take???

kt2me
Posts: 2
Joined: Oct 2010

I had a radical nephrectomy three months ago and a clear cell carcinoma was removed. This was my second primary cancer in two years. I recovered slowly and returned to work this week. I had thought that my recovery was going well until this week. I am a special education teacher and I cannot get through a day. By 12 o'clock I am not tired but totally and completely fatigued. The problem is that I look great and hence my collegues just assume that everything is fine. Is it normal to feel like this so long after the procedure?

donna_lee's picture
donna_lee
Posts: 400
Joined: Feb 2009

You are on track. And especially if you went back to work in September...in Special Ed.
Wjen you say you had a radical, was it truly a radical in which they remove kidney, adrenal gland and attached nodes? Or was it a total in which they just removed the kidney and possibly nodes, but left the adrenal gland?

The adrenal gland produces the "fight or flight" hormone. If yours has been reduced by half -with only one remaing gland- that could account for some of your fatigue.

When Dx'd in 2006, "mine" had already metastacized to the liver and nodes, so had right kidney, left half of liver, full set of nodes, plus a congenitally defective gall bladder removed. With the liver involvement, the incision started below the navel and went up to my right armpit area. I was on track in reoovery of strength, etc. when I developed pancreatitis at the 3rd week. That put me back to square 1.

I do have the "luxury" of being a business owner and on salary, so was able to pace myself. In the very beginning, I would only work 2-3 hours a day and then go home.

You may need to ask for ADA accomodation on your scheduling. Periodic breaks, longer lunch, a part time person to work with the kids.
I do understand the job you are in doesn't have a lot of flexibility. I was a teacher and my daughter had a HS class of all autistic boys last year with no prep time, 5 aides and 9 kids. It wore her out.

And congratulations on the looking great part. With tongue in cheek, I got lots of those comments. But I wondered if they would have said them anyway, of if the full comment was, "You look great for just having had major surgery, lots of guts thrown into a pan for biopsy, and now having to wonder what comes next."

It helps to have a sense of humor. and some kind of support group. I participate weekly in a group. An older Harvard study has shown that when people have a major illness diagnosis, there is a 25% longer and better survival rate when they have a support group, preferably of those with the same type of illness. The questions, fears, anxieties, treatment protocols related to the disease can be discussed. But with our group, we are in the business of day-to-day living with having had cancer. So we talk about vacations, planting gardens, sharing pictures of the kids or grands, etc. Because that is why we live.

Hope this doesn't seem to ramble, but you need to feel encouraged that things will get better, even if it is slower than you wanted. Your body has had to recover from the physical aspects of having organs moved around to look at stuff, muscles and facia becing cut thru to get into the area, the effects of anesthesia on the body, being unable to walk, urinate, eat much or have an appetite. And you also have only one kidney to filter and do the work of 2.
From the physical therapy standpoint of a normal person-for each day off or unable to exercise or work out, you need 3 days to recover that loss. Check your calendar and see where you stand on that scale.

Feel free to ask questions. I may have an answer.

I'd say hug those kids, put all the laws pretty much would put you in jail if you did more than touched a finger while helping them guide a pencil.

Donna

icemantoo's picture
icemantoo
Posts: 1528
Joined: Jan 2010

You just had major abdominal surgery. After 3 months you can do every thing you used to be able to do, just not for 8 hours straight. Everybody's recovery is different. I was able to function well in an office setting after 3 months, but without the demands of small children. The fact that you recently had another Cancer does not help any. Your age and other factors effect your recovery as well. You have to let your co-workers understand that while you look and act great and can still do everything you used to do it is going to take a transion period for you to be able to do what is required of you for 8 hours straight and until that occurs you may need some time outs and assistance from your co-workers.

kt2me
Posts: 2
Joined: Oct 2010

Thank you so much to donna_lee and icemantoo!!! Simply the fact that someone listened is extremely comforting. I am 49. My cancer was a radical removal and no-one (not the GP or four specialists that I am seeing) could explain to my why I was so tired. It was alway, "just take it easy". The urologist actually said initially that it would be a 6 week recovery period and that "if you are not back at work after eight I would consider you a piker." It was my GP that insisted that I take a 10 week period off work. It is only the third day back and no consideration has been given to me. I went to the doctor and had my day reduced by an hour and ceased all playground duty. However, at work I was made feel that I was not pulling my weight as others had to do my duties (this was from administration). I do not have any access to aide time or additional assistance. I do not have any sort of advocate to act on my behalf and I have already used three months worth of sick leave. At least I now know that I am not alone!

lbinmsp's picture
lbinmsp
Posts: 266
Joined: Jun 2006

It does sound like you're on track. I had a radical nephrectomy - returned to work 6 weeks later - and nearly fainted by noon of the first day! My urologic oncologist told me that it could take a year or longer before I returned to 'full strength' and activity. Your body has had a major shock and must learn to adjust to living with one kidney, plus all the other body parts that work together with (now) that one kidney. Cannot even imagine being a special ed teacher on top of this! You need to take more frequent breaks, MAYBE even reduce your hours for a bit longer. Recovery from this is no cake-walk! Listen to your body - rest it when it needs it and allow yourself to recover on your own timeline. good luck to you!

msdubya
Posts: 4
Joined: Sep 2010

I've had a couple of kidney surgeries. The first was a radical nephrectomy. I took about three weeks off and then back to work. I had a desk job per se and exerted myself very little. Some walking but most sitting. Not too bad.
My second was a partial nephrectomy where the surgeon cut out about a 1/3 of my kidney. I'm here to tell you that surgery took more out of me than the radical. I stayed home two weeks after the surgery, then back to work. Again, a desk job (I'm a therapist) so I mainly sat around and conducted group therapy sessions and some typing. I was worn out. A week or two was not nearly enough time to regain my strength that time around.
Luckily, that last surgery was in 2003. I'm fully recovered (at least as far as I know) but age has taken some of my stamina from me (I'm almost 59 now). I can't do nearly as much as I used to be able to do, but not necessarily due to my cancer.
Hang in there and follow your surgeon's and doctor's advice. They are experienced with this. Do what you can, take your time, and you, too, will feel your strength return in time.
Good luck!

blackbelt's picture
blackbelt
Posts: 32
Joined: Apr 2006

I have had two different major abdominal surgeries, first 4 to 6 weeks start with no heavy lifting, just doing daily activities such as dressing, showering, driving, etc. I started walking immediately after each surgery in the hospital, I was in the gym the day after i got out of the hospital and just started walking, my philosophy is you're going to be in severe pain at home or the gym the quicker you get up and move around the quicker you heal, I waited until incision to heal before riding my mountain bike, I was riding stationary bike second week, elliptical machine second week, practicing my martial arts at 4 weeks, depending on your fitness level before surgery 3 to 6 months is all you need to get back to normal, remember normal is different now, yes you will have abdominal pain and possible fatigue and feeling tired, that is all part of the process of healing, remember abdominal surgery is no different than having knee surgery it takes 4 to 6 weeks for the surgery to heal, then it's up to you to keep your core abdominal stabilizer muscles strong

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