Fortunately, I have a brother-in-law, Robert, a prominent doctor who is always happy to steer family members in the right direction. I called him, and he referred me to the head of urology and noninvasive surgery at a university hospital who in turn arranged for me to travel to the hospital and have the enhancing mass removed through percutaneous cryoablation. In this procedure, a hollow needle is inserted through the skin and directed to the spot on the kidney, and then an ice ball is created on the area. The ice ball freezes the questionable cells and ruptures them, and they are eventually absorbed by the body. It is the modern fix for small tumors and much less intrusive than the old practice of open or even laproscopic surgery, where a piece or all of the kidney is sliced and diced. A few months later, in April of 2008, I had a second cryoablation to touch up an area that was missed the first time around. The mass was never biopsied – I was told that biopsies were notoriously inaccurate and not really necessary since the procedure would be the same no matter what the result.
Following the second cryoablation, I followed a regimen of regular CT scans and MRI’s at my local medical center, all of which showed no enhancement and thus no further issues with my kidney. My husband Karl and I retired, and we traveled, worked for charity, shopped at our local thrift store and generally reveled in free time and lack of obligations. I felt good. My most recent MRI for the kidney took place in March 2012, at which time my urologist also ordered standard blood tests. The MRI was negative and all my lab results were fine except for elevated liver enzymes.
There were, of course, many possible explanations for elevated liver enzymes, and the test results could be a one time blip, my doctor said, in which case retesting would show no problem. Unfortunately, the numbers were still elevated a month later so I needed more tests to rule out various types of hepatitis and other diseases which could affect the liver. Or in my case, rule them in. In June I was told that I had active hepatitis C and chronic liver disease and was scheduled for a liver biopsy which would show the extent of my liver scarring, an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and more blood work. In late September I met with the nurse practitioner in charge of hepatitis C treatment to discuss the findings of the biopsy and endoscopy and discuss my medical options. Karl went with me.