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On Your Mark, Get Set, Go Become a Cancer Survivor

Elaine shares her story of how faith in herself, Dr. Fagelson and God helped her reach the finish line – now her story serves as motivation for others.

Cancer survivor | Elaine running a 5k race | Urology Associates
Elaine fulfilled a lifelong dream of participating in 5K races.

The past few years have been full of refinement, change and emotional ups and downs.

After the passing of my father, my mother and I became roommates so that I could take care of her physical and medical needs. This was certainly an adjustment, but I have strived to use it as an expression of love and servitude.

Then in August of 2015, I suffered an injury that ruptured a disk in my back and left me in severe pain. I was unable to walk or even stand up for several months. I went through extensive chiropractic care and wellness therapy that not only helped the healing process, but also opened my eyes to the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle.

From there on out, I have made a point to improve my health and wellness. Through it all I got a job promotion, and on top of that I have dropped 77 pounds – and counting! This allowed me to fulfill a long-time dream of participating in 5K races.

Unfortunately, among all of these peaks and valleys, I also heard the words that no one ever wants to hear: “You have cancer.”

From finish line to emergency room

After recovering from my back injury and making a point to improve my health, I was feeling great. I had even started participating in many other races.

When I got home from one of my races, I started to feel sick. I thought maybe I had the flu, but did not think much of it until I went to the restroom and noticed blood in my urine. Even though I did not have any other pain or concerning symptoms, I went to the emergency room right away.

In the ER I underwent a variety of scans and testing that revealed a mass on my right kidney. From there I was referred to a urologist through UCHealth who performed more invasive testing to determine that the mass was kidney cancer.

This is news you just hate to hear in any sentence. It causes the body to be numb. It causes the mind to race. In that brief instant you go through a whirlwind of thoughts that range from What am I going to do? to How do I tell my family? to Is this a death sentence?

Then, just as quickly, you must gather yourself and realize that the doctor is still talking to you. After you hang up the phone you sit in silence, try to collect your thoughts and figure out what the next step will be.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that one of my first thoughts was I’m going to see my father sooner than I thought. But I knew I had to pull myself together. I had to put one foot in front of the other and lean on my loving God. I had to muster the strength to inform those closest to me of the news and make sure to protect those who needed to be protected (my mom). Then, I did the best I could to move forward with my life.

The run for my life

The first doctor I saw encouraged a very aggressive treatment plan that would include eight weeks of chemotherapy and a surgery that would require cutting my back open to remove my kidney. In my heart, I just knew this was not the right plan.

I decided to do some research on my own and trusted that God would help me find a better treatment option for my diagnosis. During my search, I came across a book called The Cancer Killers that explains nutrition, fitness and detoxification advice essential to confronting cancer. I began adjusting my eating habits and lifestyle choices accordingly.

Around that time a friend from my church revealed that she had also battled kidney cancer and shared that she received her treatment at Urology Associates. Not long after, I learned that a co-worker had received care from Urology Associates as well. They both had wonderful things to say about the facility and doctors, so I took a leap of faith and contacted the clinic.

After just one appointment with Dr. James Fagelson I knew that I had made the right choice to forego the treatment plan suggested by my first doctor. Dr. Fagelson was optimistic from the very beginning and took my concerns into consideration. He was also confident that he could use a minimally invasive surgery to remove my kidney, which meant that he would not have to cut into my back.

On August 23, 2016, I underwent the surgery, which was successful. I was up and walking the next day and follow-up tests revealed that the cancer had remained contained to just my kidney. Dr. Fagelson believes that the work I put into getting healthy probably made a difference in the results of my treatment.

As I learned from The Cancer Killers, good health helps healing. Dr. Fagelson also told me that if I had not lost weight after my back injury, the tumor may still be hiding and undetected.

As a preventive caution, Dr. Fagelson had me undergo a bladder scope about three months after my surgery to make sure that additional tumors had not developed. Unfortunately the scope results showed three malignant tumors on my bladder. On January 5 I had a surgery to remove all of those. I am so thankful that Dr. Fagelson recommended this scope, because who knows how long those tumors could have gone undetected if he had not.

Today I am blessed with good health. Recent CT scans have come back clean, indicating that there are no other cancerous tumors in my body.

Racing on as a cancer survivor inspiration 

Cancer survivor | photo of Elaine Brimage after weight loss and cancer free | Urology Associates
Elaine has taken control of her health and wellness by continuing to lose weight and following her dreams.

I thank God every day for Dr. Fagelson and the care that I received at Urology Associates. Every step of the way the doctors and staff have been so sensitive and understanding to my fears and needs. I have truly never felt so cared for in my life, which is comforting when facing something as challenging as cancer.

I strive to use my journey as a tool of inspiration and hope for others. Through this process, I have found a passion for motivating others. I have had the honor of sharing my story at a Cancer Killers workshop and I also write monthly blogs dedicated to uplifting others. It is hard to put the journey of life into words, but I hope I can help others believe in the power that they have to overcome difficulties.

The past few years have been filled with ups and downs, but through it all I have found personal passions and improved my health and wellness. In fact, on April 22, 2017, I will be participating in Pat’s Run, a 5K race in Phoenix, Arizona.

This race just so happens to be on the one-year anniversary of my kidney cancer diagnosis.

I would like to leave you with a poem that I wrote while I was dealing with the challenges of the past few years.

This is my heart today…

To Be Free From Pain

Elaine Brimage II

The heart deals with many emotions
We sometimes don’t know how to channel
And when they all come falling down around us
Fears and tears can also be hard to handle. 

It’s not always easy to find the right words
When someone who cares asks if they can help
But what a comfort to know people care for you
And it makes your heart want to truly melt. 

With the complications and pains we’re dealt
It gets hard not to want to give in
Then we’re reminded of the wonders of His love
And muster up the faith to want to win.

Though the battles may prove to be challenging
Something in us says let’s fight the fight
And when the enemy is attacking against you
You know in your spirit you are doing right.

So, through all the pains and tears
We must remember to look toward the light
Cause in that we find the sun and rainbow
And remember things again will soon be bright.