Goodbye 16. You Won’t Be Missed.

Our daughter’s birthdays have always been occasion for an excess of enthusiasm and sentimentality as we enjoyed each “first” and “last” over these past eighteen years we have been parents. With three kids so close in age – less than four years separating our oldest and our youngest  – we have truly done that and been there when it comes to birthdays.

However it is our middle kiddo turning 17 that has inspired more-than-usual enthusiasm and sentimentality.

Why the extra enthusiasm for this birthday? Sixteen was an unprecedented and jarring year for our family. We are ready for a reset and will enjoy looking at the past year from the rear view. 

Just months into her 16th year, our middle kiddo was diagnosed with and treated for a renal carcinoma. In January, she underwent a radical laparoscopic nephrectomy, an operation to remove her (left) kidney. We have two kidneys and as long as the remaining kidney is healthy  – a person can live a full and complete life with just one. However, there is almost no precedence for someone her age to develop a kidney tumor. Less than 200 cases recorded  – ever. In attempting to gather data and to understand potential outcomes, we asked both her pediatric oncologist and her surgeon – what are the chances? Neither of them could give us an answer because so little case data exists. 

This is a disease of the very old or in rare instances newborns can be born with a kidney tumor, but it’s not something that happens to teenagers. The best analysis was that our kiddo was special – she was that rare 1 in 500,000 cases.

The follow-up pathology showed mostly benign – this I have come to learn is medical speak. There are no absolutes – we are mostly benign and that is a very good thing. She is young and the recovery was relatively fast and issue free. 

In advance of the first postoperative scan at the beginning of the summer, we were anxious but assumed this would be a perfunctory nod to an abundance of caution. Not so fast. The liver scan was clean but an alarming “nodule” showed up on her thyroid. What?? How can this happen, again? More worry. What does the thyroid do and do we need one? Another specialist. More appointments. Another scan. But this time, “it’s all great news”. Benign. Literal, tears of joy as multiple layers of worry are instantaneously released.

So, here we are. Ready for a fresh start. Happy 17th birthday to our resilient, beautiful daughter. We are very happy to be looking at 16 from the rear view.

Published by kimberlystrenk

West Coast native, enjoying life in Austin, Texas with three teen daughters, awesome husband, and one adorable, vertically challenged doxie pup, Ollie.

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