Andrew, a Senior at SES, climbed for Sargent Donald Howell
Andrew was also new to mountain climbing. He was attracted to the challenge of trying to climb higher than any other point in the continental US or the European Alps. Andrew loves a good conversation and doesn’t mind if that conversation tends towards a debate. He was struck by how quickly the temperature, clouds and weather can change on the mountain and saw echoes of the transient nature of life. In the climbing hostel’s guidebook, he wrote, “Years down the road, we, and everything we’ve built will be gone, but the mountain will remain.”
Donald Howell is used to solving mysteries. He worked for years as a police officer and detective in Ohio and Michigan, including some time in Detroit and Columbus. Sometimes his job required him to work undercover. He dedicated his life to upholding and sustaining the law and keeping people safe and assuring that justice is carried out. He now works as a Special Agent at National Insurance Crime Bureau.
He was treated for kidney cancer with a robotic partial nephrectomy in May of 2017 and so far has no evidence of recurrence.
When Donald was asked about his own experience with cancer, this is how Mr. Howell responded…
|1- Approximately how old were you when you were diagnosed with kidney cancer?
I was 74 years of age.
|2 – Approximately how many years have passed since being diagnosed with kidney cancer?
|3– How did you find out you had kidney cancer?
I noticed blood in my urine and because I had Prostate Cancer in 2002, I thought the blood was related to that. So, I went in for a checkup at the U of M Urology Center. A CT Scan was done, and I learned I had a huge kidney stone in my left kidney. I also learned that I had a possible cancerous growth in my right kidney.
|4– What treatments did you get for your kidney cancer?
First, I had address the stone in my left kidney. I was prescribed Potassium medication that was supposed to dissolve the stone. Unfortunately, the stone moved down into my Ureter and blocked it. I had to go in for surgery to have the stone removed. February 2, 2017, Dr. Michael Borofsky performed a Laser Holmium Lithotripsy Ureter(s), and inserted a stent on my left kidney. After I healed from that procedure, I had a biopsy of my right kidney performed at the U of M Hospital. I was diagnose with clear cell renal cell carcinoma. May 2, 2017, Dr. Christopher Weight performed a robot-assisted right partial nephrectomy, lysis of adhesions.
|5– What is the current status of your kidney cancer? Treated in the past, but no known cancer, ongoing treatments etc?
I have had a six month follow-up CT and everything looks okay. I have another scan and labs scheduled in May of this year.
|6– What were your first thoughts, or the first emotions you felt when you found out you had kidney cancer?
Cancer, that ugly “C” word! This is the second time it has reared it’s ugly head in my life. I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer in 2002. That cancer scared me to death. I did a lot of research and visited two different Urologists. The first doctor wanted to remove my Prostate. The second doctor thought I was a good candidate for Brachytherapy. The seeds were implanted at the U of M in 2002. Since then my PSA has been 0.001, with very little side effects. The kidney cancer scared me too. At first, I thought it was related to my Prostate cancer and it had come back and had spread to my Kidney. All kinds of thoughts raced through my head. Am I going to die? What type of treatment do I need? What is the success rate for this type of cancer? What about my family? How will they react? What will they do without me? Fortunately, for me, Dr. Borofsky recommended I see Dr. Weight. Dr. Weight took the time to explain everything to me and answered all my questions, and more. He pretty much took away all the anxiety I was feeling.
|7– What do you do for work?
I retired from law enforcement in 1987. I was a Columbus Ohio Police Sergeant for eleven years, and a Special Agent with the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives for twelve years. Since 1987, I have been employed in the insurance industry investigating insurance fraud. I’m currently a Special Agent with the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), and have been for the last ten years.
|8– Please tell us about what you like to do in your free time. Enter as many or as few things as you like, i.e. hobbies, pastimes etc, things you’d rather do instead of thinking of kidney cancer.
I like working outside in the Summer on my lawn and flower garden. I love all types of sports, especially “The Ohio State Buckeyes”. I used to be and avid runner. I ran the first Twin Cities Marathon, and six or seven after that. I also ran two Grandma’s. Unfortunately, my knees gave out, so I just walk now. My main hobby is collecting police badges, and police memorabilia. I have a large collection of MN, MI, , and OH badges. I have several “First Issue Badges, from the mid 1800’s.
|9– Please tell us about 1-2 people who helped you with your journey with kidney cancer.
Of course Dr., Borofsky, and Dr. Weight. I couldn’t have done this without them. Also, my Family. My wife, two sons, and my daughter. My daughter lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband. She came back to MN and spent three weeks waiting on dear ole dad. She made sure I took it easy and did the right things.
|10– Please share the most vivid details of your kidney cancer story. Feel free to write your whole story as you remember it.
As a law enforcement officer, I’ve been threatened to be killed by another, been shot at, hit with a club, punched in the face and stomach, kicked, bitten so hard I thought I would lose a finger, spit in the face, and had urine and feces thrown at me. I’ve been called every profane name one could think of. I’ve been in two Penitentiary Riots where prisoners wanted to kill me. I’ve been in race riots, and numerous student riots. Yes, I was scared and worried. However, that didn’t come close to how I felt when I was told I have kidney cancer! My head was spinning. I had always had control of my life, and now, I didn’t. Thankfully, Dr. Weight fully explained everything to me and with his help, and my family, I was able to get past this pebble in my journey through life.
Some thoughts never go away, however. Every so often, a certain pain, or sign bring back the questions in my mind about cancer. Is it back? Has it spread? Is it a new cancer? As much as I try, sometimes the questions linger. However, I’m not letting it control my life. I’m happy to be above ground, and I’m going to make the best of it!
|11– What advice would you share with someone newly diagnosed with kidney cancer?
Do your research. Learn as much as you can about the cancer. If necessary, get a second opinion. Of course, seek treatment from a well know treatment center/doctor, such as the U of M, and Dr. Weight.