Judy McGee has been cancer free for five years since undergoing treatment for a mass on one of her kidneys.
On June 25, she celebrated her 51st birthday. She credits God and the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Global, Inc. for the honor of being able to do so.
These days, when she’s not working, McGee enjoys spending time laughing and playing with her three grandchildren.
Before the laughter however, the “crying times” filled her nights as she fought against a disease that resulted in the loss of the cancerous kidney.
“I’m a single mother of one son and three grandchildren,” McGee said as she shared her story. “When I was diagnosed, my daughter-in-law was pregnant with one of my grandchildren. It was five years ago around Memorial Day weekend. I was having back pain at work. It was hurting so bad, I went home early. I called my mom on my way home and she told me to go to the doctor. I stopped at a Jewel to use the bathroom and had to go again after driving a block. I went home instead of going to the doctor. I wanted to lie down. The next morning I went to see my doctor. He took one look at me and said ‘It’s your kidneys.’”
After having an ultrasound, the technician instructed McGee to go right away to see her doctor.
“I had an infection in one kidney and a mass on the other one,” McGee said. “I went through a lot of tests and saw different doctors. My mother was with me through the entire process.”
It was during one of her sleepless nights that McGee saw what she refers to as an Infomercial about the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
“I called them and even though I was out-of-network, they accepted me anyway and charged my insurance as an in-network patient. Eventually, my insurance became part of the network,” McGee said.
McGee’s advice as a survivor, “If you feel any bumps or lumps or a lot of back pain, go and see your doctor because with cancer, early detection is the best thing. Even after you get a diagnosis, get a second opinion. I think the difference in those who survive is early detection.”
African-Americans and American Indians/Alaska Natives have slightly higher rates of renal cancer than Whites. The reasons are not clear, according the American Cancer Society.
The average age of diagnosis is 64. Kidney cancer is uncommon in people younger than age 45. The disease is among the 10 most common cancers in both men and women.
Risk factors that could make you more likely to develop kidney cancer includes smoking, obesity, workplace exposure to certain substances such as cadmium (a type of metal), some herbicides, organic solvents, particularly trichloroethylene, and a family history of renal cancer.
Individuals with advanced kidney disease, especially those undergoing dialysis, have a higher risk.
While some cancer rates continue to climb, medical treatments are also advancing, providing more patients with the hope and resources they need to battle the disease.
McGee isn’t alone in her survivor status. She recently joined more than 100 other five-year cancer survivors in Zion for Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s 30th Annual Celebrate Life event.
The event brings together both cancer survivors and caregivers for a day of empowerment and celebration. Survivors stand united to support one another, celebrate the moments they’ve gained, and encourage those who are currently navigating their own cancer journey.
Participants also plant a tree to symbolize growth. This year marks the 30th tree that has been planted in honor of each five-year survivor in attendance.
Many of the celebrants also took time to walk through the hospital, offering comfort, support and a traditional “Hope” pin to other patients and family members who are currently battling cancer.
“We received two pins. One for yourself and one to pass along to someone else,” McGee said. “I gave one of my pins to a patient to let her know that she is in the right place.”