Elleni’s Story

Elleni’s Kidney Cancer Story:

Elleni, a single by choice mother, was diagnosed with a large kidney cancer when her daughter was only 18 months, read her story below as she faced the many unknowns kidney cancer brings with her daughter and mother depending on her.

Elleni is happy to be celebrating her daughter's 2 and a half year birthday
Elleni is happy to be celebrating her daughter’s 2 and a half year birthday

“When I decided to become a “Choice Mom,” I considered myself to be relatively healthy. I went into the process expecting to be around for plenty of time to maybe someday become a “Choice Grandmother!” During my pregnancy, I experienced problems from a large uterine fibroid. My OB said it should shrink after the pregnancy. A year and a half after my daughter was born, I realized the fibroid had not shrunk and could be felt quite distinctly as a large lump on my upper right side. I went back to my doctor and said, “I thought this fibroid was going to go away. Its been 18 months!”

“The doctor felt the mass and then had the clinic ultrasound tech scan it. As they both stared at the screen, the tech said, “I don’t think that is a fibroid. I think it is coming off the kidney.” She sent me for a CT scan and the next day called to refer me to Dr. Christopher Weight at the University of Minnesota Medical Center Institute for Prostate and Urologic Cancers.”

Kidney mass on the left side of the picture, right side of Elleni's abdomen replacing the right kidney and measuring 13 centimeters!
Kidney mass on the left side of the picture, right side of Elleni’s abdomen replacing the right kidney and measuring 13 centimeters!
Elleni's tumor in cross-section showing the normal appearance of a kidney on the left of her body (right side of the screen)
Elleni’s tumor in cross-section showing the normal appearance of a kidney on the left of her body (right side of the screen)

“I was nervous to hear the results of my scan and was shocked to hear him say it was kidney cancer. I worried about how I would care for my young daughter. Additionally, I was primary caregiver for my aging mother, who herself was battling breast cancer. After discussions with Dr Weight and my mother’s doctors, we actually put off my mom’s surgery so that I could undergo nephrectomy less than a month after diagnosis. The surgery went well. (Dr Weight and his team removed the kidney laproscopicaly and even used my C-section incision for the kidney removal which really helped with the recovery.)

At my one-month follow up, I was given the results. At the meeting, Dr Weight said, based on my CT scan, he expected my outcome to be much more dire. However, inputting the pathological findings of my tumor (grade 2 and stage 2), into the “survival calculator”  gives me a 73% chance of surviving 10 years or more! I am happy to report I’ve made it one year so far and have had no evidence of recurrence after four follow up scans. I continue to enjoy life and look forward to the future.”

~Elleni F. Minneapolis, MN 2015


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Elleni celebrating 1 year cancer free with her kidney cancer surgeon, Dr. Chris Weight

Inspired by Elleni’s story, we want to take on the Half Dome since Elleni only has half of her kidneys left.

This type of news that Elleni received 1 year ago would send anyone reeling.  In fact, this news of a new kidney cancer diagnosis will be delivered to 61,560 equally surprised fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, friends, children and co-workers in the U.S. in just one year.  We are impressed by how Elleni didn’t have the inclination to think of herself when she found she had cancer.  She was not only a single mother and the sole care taker for her baby daughter, but she also was the primary provider for her aged mother who was battling advanced breast cancer herself.   Elleni’s composure and bravery was remarkable as she faced a test far more more challenging than any she had previously faced.  We are so happy that she is 1 year free from cancer that we want to commemorate her anniversary, with anyone else who is celebrating an anniversary, by climbing 4 kidney cancer.

The #C4KC team will attempt to climb Half Dome, via the snake dike route.  Its peak rests just under 5,000 feet above the Yosemite valley.  With each foot we climb, we will be mindful that during the month of September, approximately that many people (5,000) will be diagnosed with kidney cancer in the United States!  We hope to plant C4KC colors atop Half Dome in honor of Elleni who represents so many others who have bravely faced this disease.  We hope to bring attention to the lack of funding and awareness.  Follow us with live updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.