A Chance Encounter Led to a Cancer Diagnosis

Sarah Cauley was at her mother’s doctor’s office decades ago when a chance encounter and stomachache led to a cancer diagnosis.

Hello, my name is Sarah and I have been a cancer survivor for over 43 years.

I was diagnosed with Wilms tumor when I was two years old and had my right kidney removed when I was three. I don’t remember much because I was very young, but I was told stories of the strange way it was discovered.

On her way to the OB/GYN for her annual appointment, and without a babysitter available, my mom brought me with her.  When the doctor saw me in the examination room, he immediately wanted to dote on me and pick me up. Having a stomachache, I declined. My mom remembers the shocked look on his face when he touched my stomach to determine the cause.

Laying me down on the table, his face turned serious as he inspected further. My stomach, the doctor mentioned to my mother, felt like rocks. My mom looked at him and asked if it was serious. He starkly replied yes, we were to leave now and go straight to the ER.

Arriving at the ER, they began to run tests. I was not going home that night but was lucky to be there as it was getting worse.  My father was flabbergasted when he heard the news, jumping into his car and rushing to the hospital.  When he arrived, the doctors pulled my parents aside and revealed the cause. The pain that I was having in my stomach, and why my stomach felt like rocks, was a Wilms tumor on my right kidney.

 The doctors discussed treatment options — a donor transplant or removal of my kidney. Either way, I would need chemotherapy. My mom agreed and left me in the doctor’s hands. I spent two years of my childhood at John Dempsey Hospital, which is now known as UConn Health Center. There I got the best treatment in the world. The doctors there saved my life. I’ve been cancer-free — and living with one kidney — for 43 years. I try my best to stay in shape, stay positive, and stay focused.

Whether you are a patient, survivor, caregiver or loved one touched by cancer, your story can have an enormous impact. You can provide hope and inspiration to someone recently diagnosed with cancer or a patient undergoing therapy.

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