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Active 81-Year-Old Takes Cancer and Kidney Loss in Stride

When diagnosed with cancer, always active and healthy Jean took a step back and relied on her faith to help her through a trying time.

Dr. Bell's patient

Jean Standish is one tough cookie. In fact, she laughs as she remembers receiving the news of her kidney cancer diagnosis early in the summer of 2014 prior to a planned trip to support her grandson who is a professional mountain biker.

Dr. Brad Bell suggested that I try to take it easy on my trip that summer, prior to my surgery, to which my husband humorously responded, Do you have a pill that will make her do that?

He knew that for Jean, taking it easy wouldn’t be easy.

Originally born in Nebraska, Jean and her husband settled in Colorado where they raised two boys. Jean returned to the working world when they were in high school, acting as the business manager for a senior facility for 16 years. She always spent much of her time on-the-go, traveling with her husband, skiing, hiking, camping and she still walks regularly. Taking it easy just isn’t a part of her DNA.

Jean, who lived in Conifer, Colorado, consistently received clean bills of health during her yearly physicals. Which is why she was shocked one May morning in 2014 to discover a large amount of blood in her urine. After receiving a computed tomography (CT) scan from her primary physician, the staff recommended that she see Dr. Bell at Urology Associates in Denver.

With her husband by her side for serious support, Jean visited Dr. Bell.

“He seemed young, but he was extremely knowledgeable and upfront,” recalls Jean. “He told us that it could be cancer, but they’d have to do a bit more checking.”

Jean remembers asking, “How could this be?” After all, she had always been an extremely active and healthy person. Dr. Bell scheduled a biopsy, just in case.

Her faith guided Jean to kidney removal

In June, Jean was informed that her cancer was a renal pelvic cancer (similar to a bladder cancer in which the cancer affects the cells attached to the kidney). Unfortunately, these cells do not respond well to chemotherapy or standard radiation, and surgery remains the gold standard for treatment.

Dr. Bell, Jean and her family reviewed her films and performed a ureteroscopy biopsy of the abnormal cells in the renal pelvis. Upon return of the diagnosis, they discussed her treatment options together. Surgery to remove her entire kidney and ureter (nephroureterectomy) was recommended and monitoring, though not recommended, was also discussed.

It was a tough predicament. At the time Jean was 81-years-old, a risky factor in performing this surgery, because it meant that her health would ultimately depend on the successful function of her remaining kidney.

She thought it over carefully. After relying on the advice and support from her friends, family and acquaintances at her church and on her confidence in the team at Urology Associates, Jean made the decision to schedule the surgery.

“I have a great faith that the Lord is always looking out for us and guides us,” said Jean of her decision.

The kidney removal surgery was performed September 11, 2014. More than a year afterward, her regular check-ins and cystoscopies have shown no problems.

“She came through her surgery with flying colors. No doubt her many years of good health and staying active played a huge part in her successful recovery and ultimate outcome,” said Dr. Bell.

She admits that she experienced her own personal frustration during the recovery and recuperation period. “I suppose I need to realize that I was 81 at the time, not 18,” Jean said with a laugh.

Today, aside from a slightly slower gait and a newly found appreciation for an afternoon nap, Jean still enjoys being active and traveling. In the past few months she has returned to participating in water aerobics and continues to volunteer in the community and at her church.

Through all of the fear and emotions Jean relied strongly on her faith and the belief that she had much more life to enjoy – including five grandchildren ranging in age from 17-25. In fact, every week Jean sends each of her grandchildren in college a care package.

“I like to stay in touch and stay connected since we don’t live near each other,” said Jean. “They may be kind of strange care packages, but I think that they enjoy them and they respond.”

Staying connected and involved, Jean lives her life to the fullest. This woman’s drive and resiliency ensured that cancer was not the end of her story.

Today Jean remains grateful and appreciative of Dr. Bell and his staff for their care and attention throughout the entire process.

“Jean and I, and her family, became a team,” said Dr. Bell. “She is a shining person and I feel fortunate to have been a part of her care.”

He is also personally inspired by Jean’s unwavering dedication and support of her grandson’s biking career. “Jean is an amazing person and exactly who I would want on the sidelines cheering me on,” said Dr. Bell. “Our goal was to get her to her personal finish line so she could get back to cheering for her loved ones at their finish line.”