Surviving cancer: Renal cell carcinoma's

May 1, 2009 at 6:44 a.m. ET

Celebrating her 10th year of remission, 40-year-old Lisa Velasquez credits a positive attitude, healthful lifestyle and faith in God for getting her through her treatments. She was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma (RCC) when she was just 30.

Lisa Velasquez

Breaking the news

SheKnows: What was your initial reaction to your diagnosis? How did your friends and family react?


Lisa Velasquez: I was just 30 when I was diagnosed with RCC and had just gotten engaged. I kept thinking, "I don't need this now!" It was amazingly scary even though I was assured my doctors had caught it early. I kept thinking about a dear friend's father who had been diagnosed with renal cancer and died six months later.


When I called my family to tell them the news, they were shocked, worried, helpless and obviously supportive. Friends and co-workers were supportive and concerned. It's a young age to be told there's cancer in your body, and everyone was surprised. I had always been healthy.


SheKnows: What kind of treatment options were you offered?


Lisa Velasquez: Because it was caught early, I was lucky. RCC is resistant to chemotherapy and radiation. The urologist said that, to be sure they were getting all of the cancer, they would perform a complete nephrectomy (taking out my kidney). I was told the tumor was 6 centimeters (which is pretty big, given RCC early-detection standards say tumors are usually 3 to 5 centimeters). Twenty days later, I had my surgery. Later, the doctors told me they were sure the cancer had been contained to the kidney they removed.

Battling the disease

SheKnows: What was your battle with cancer like? How did you feel emotionally and physically throughout?


Lisa Velasquez: It was short-lived but scary. My life was just beginning, and I wasn't ready for it to stop. I'd always dreamed of a beautiful wedding and wanted to make sure it happened. Now, I worry about how my other kidney is doing. What if it gets damaged -- where would that leave me?


SheKnows: What's been most important in your fight against cancer? How did you get through it?


Lisa Velasquez: A positive attitude, regular check-ups and physicals and, without a doubt, the love and support of those around me. I've also relied on my faith in God and hope for the future… my future.

Becoming a survivor

SheKnows: What tips or suggestions would you offer people who have just been diagnosed with cancer or to those who are gearing up to battle the disease?


Lisa Velasquez: First of all, don't give yourself a death sentence just because you've heard those dreaded words. Treatment options have come so far, and there's so much more doctors can do for you. Use all the resources you can to educate yourself about your own diagnosis; that most definitely includes visiting or contacting the American Cancer Society. They'll give you information on your diagnosis and help educate you on treatment options. They'll give you important questions to ask your doctor. They can help you find support groups in your community. And, they can make you realize you're not alone in your fight. You're a survivor!

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