Marilyn Mowrer leads a full, active life. When she's not "grammysitting" four of her six grandchildren four days a week, the 69-year-old keeps busy with her church and close circle of friends.
Mowrer had been experiencing discomfort in the upper right quadrant of her abdomen for several years, so she finally decided to make an appointment with her primary care physician, Anne Priest, M.D., for a check-up. An exam and abdominal ultrasound indicated possible renal cell carcinoma in Mowrer's left kidney. Doctors ordered a CT urogram with IV contrast, which provided more evidence of the suspected cancer. That's when Dr. Priest referred Mowrer to David Yee, M.D., urologist and director of minimally invasive robotic surgery at Sutter Roseville Medical Center.
Dr. Yee confirmed that Mowrer had renal cell carcinoma and needed surgery to remove the malignant tumor.
"I knew it was serious, but I'm a very positive person and not one to feel sorry for myself," Mowrer says. "Dr. Yee told me from the results of the scan that the tumor looked very large. He said we needed to get it out right away."
Dr. Yee wanted to take the best approach possible to treat Mowrer. He scheduled a laparoscopic nephrectomy, a minimally invasive procedure for removing the tumor. The surgery is performed through three small incisions made in the abdomen. A telescope and small instruments are inserted through the incisions, allowing surgeons to remove the tumor. The minimally invasive technique typically results in a shorter hospital stay and a faster return to daily activities.
"I liked Dr. Yee immediately and felt very confident in him," Mowrer says. "He is a wonderful listener and encouraged me to ask him any questions that were on my mind."
Carried by her strong faith, Mowrer experienced no apprehension or nervousness in the weeks leading up to surgery. "Even though we weren't sure yet what the extent of the cancer was, I was truly at peace when I went into surgery. I have no history of cancer in my family. Yet, I had a large malignant tumor," she reflects. "That's life!"
Mowrer arrived with her son at Sutter Roseville Medical Center for surgery. Depending upon the size of the tumor, Dr. Yee would decide whether to remove part or all of her kidney once he began the operation. Because the tumor turned out to be very large, he removed the entire kidney through a vertical incision, and Mowrer was in the recovery room a few hours later.
"The tumor was the size of a small cantaloupe. We were all very surprised that I didn't feel more discomfort," Mowrer says.
She was discharged from the hospital the next day. After spending a couple of days recovering with her son, daughter-in-law and four precious grandchildren, she returned to her home. She eased back into her routine over the next few days and resumed "grammysitting" a month later.
"My recovery was amazingly quick," Mowrer says. "Dr. Yee really had a strong sense of me and how I'd do with this surgery." She credits her doctors for being so proactive with her health and her strong support system of family and friends for her excellent outcome.
"The pathology report stated that the tumor was within fractions of a millimeter of going through the wall of my kidney," Mowrer says. "I did not have any chemotherapy or radiation therapy."
One year after her surgery, Mowrer had a CT scan with IV contrast of her chest, abdomen and pelvis, which revealed great news — the cancer had not metastasized to other parts of her body.
With her health concern behind her, Mowrer is once again enjoying the active, busy life she's always lived. She strongly believes her fast recovery was linked to her positive frame of mind and encourages others facing a similar diagnosis to stay positive and have confidence in their physicians and care team.
"My family, friends and I all sometimes forget that I went through this major surgery a year ago. I am very blessed to have my health, as well as my two sons, two daughter-in-laws and six beautiful grandchildren," Mowrer says, adding that both sons were born on her birthday, two years apart.
"Thank you, Dr. Yee, for allowing me to share my story!"