Diagnosis & Treatment

Renal Cell Carcinoma
Medical Center
Ascension Seton Medical Center - Austin, TX
Dr. David Cuellar - Round Rock, TX
Dr. Jeff Yorio - Austin, TX
Clinical Trials
Medical Treatment
Details of Treatment
One surgery with a 3-day hospital stay
Medication During Treatment
No drugs used
Alternative Therapies During Treatment
Therapy (saw a traditional therapist)
Plant-based Diet
Cancer showed me that my time is precious, that my relationships are precious, that my life is precious, and that I need to protect my energy at all costs. I’ve found a new purpose and am now focused on the things that matter most.
WHAt helped me during treatment
Favorite Quote
Advice for Others
Show yourself grace. This is a hard journey, whether in treatment or throughout survivorship. You do not need to be a warrior or a fighter or whatever platitude someone throws at you. You can just BE and feel and experience and rage and do all the things you need to do to cope with and heal from the trauma that is cancer. Give yourself that time. You owe nothing to anyone.

My Story

My symptoms weren’t obvious and were attributed to other issues. We learned I had cancer after routine blood work that concerned my doctor. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have known I had cancer until an advanced stage.

On September 30, 2020, at around 11:30 a.m., I found out I had renal cell carcinoma – that, at 37 years old, I was among the roughly 82,000 Americans to receive this diagnosis last year. Less than a month later, I would have a radical nephrectomy, offloading a tumor roughly the size of my thumb and the left kidney it attached itself to. Only then, would I learn that I had chromophobe renal cell carcinoma (or chRCC), a rare form of non-clear cell kidney cancer that accounts for roughly 5% of cases.

Before my cancer diagnosis, I was on a path to becoming a fitness coach and accelerating my kickboxing training. I also finally reached a place with my nutrition that felt comfortable—that felt safe after spending most of the pandemic confronting my issues around disordered eating and body image. But all that vanished into thin air that September. I was desperate to keep my progress—to make sure my detour wasn’t prolonged. I researched and researched and researched. I made plans to ease back into working out. I formed a wellness support circle that would help keep me grounded—that would motivate me to test my limits but also encourage me to slow down. After all, I go all in—too in sometimes. The idea of “rest and recovery” is still foreign to me. But when it came to maintaining my progress, I was at a lost.

I couldn’t find any information out there for people like me—for muscular athletes who happened to have one kidney. There were no tips or tricks on how to adjust your diet to your new reality—to balance your macronutrients in a way that would stymie the loss of muscle or change in body composition. Instead, I came across article after article on diets for people with chronic kidney disease. I could take only so much from that advice. I found no solace in the fitness space, either. I saw the phrase "for a healthy adult" used, time and again, as a caveat to advice around protein intake.

The current recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein intake can be double or triple for athletes or even fitness enthusiasts who exercise heavily. But for people like me, with reduced renal function, the amount of protein we should ingest may be much lower to minimize wear and tear on the remaining kidney. ​ My reduced kidney function doesn't mean I’m unhealthy, though. Health comprises a multitude of interconnected factors, which means one macro restriction cannot define health status. Yet, “For a healthy adult” is still used over and over again whenever any fitness professional discusses protein or any other modification, whether nutritional or physical.

It’s time we change this narrative. ​ As a cancer survivor with one kidney, I understand the challenge, frustration, and pain of navigating an industry not built for you. This is why I started Stillwell Fitness: to close the gap by providing the information, support, coaching, and guidance to help optimize their performance without sacrificing their health.

Visit Stillwell Fitness here

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