A fit and well mum has detailed the shocking moment a chance trip to the doctor turned her world upside down.
Mother-of-one Annamaria Scaccia, 40, went to the doctor by chance in July 2020 to check her health while working on her fitness regime and was amazed when her doctor noticed abnormalities in her blood results.
They advised her to cut back on the protein powders she was taking and reduce her exercise to see if that would change the results, but her kidney creatine levels also raised a red flag — an ultrasound eventually revealed a five-centimeter mass in the left organ. .
The lump was cancerous and grew for up to five years, unbeknownst to Annamaria. “I was terrified because I didn’t know if my worst fear would come true — that I wouldn’t be able to watch my son grow up,” Annamaria, who lives in Austin, Texas, told NeedToKnow.online.
Before his diagnosis, the communications director was a kickboxer, training two hours a day, six days a week and hoping to compete in Muay Thai fights. She has been focusing heavily on her fitness since 2017 after the end of a long-term relationship and has been eating a high-protein diet to help her get stronger.
The 40-year-old woman was better than ever and had no idea there was anything seriously wrong. “There was no sign, or at least I didn’t recognize any signs,” the 40-year-old said. “The cancer was caught because I had a hypervigilant doctor who examined her properly. She didn’t like the way my creatinine and blood urea nitrogen levels looked, so she wanted to find out why.
“I’m so grateful he did.”
Mum is ‘surprised and angry’ at diagnosis
The doctor’s initial concern eventually led to her diagnosis on September 30, 2020. Annamaria saw a urologist who told her she would need a nephrectomy — removal of part or all of the kidney — and the surgery was scheduled for a month later.
She still didn’t know what kind of cancer she had or what stage it was in, and she worried that she wouldn’t be around for the future of her son, Kelly, 7. “He was afraid of losing me and clung to me wherever we went. I was afraid the cancer would be at an advanced stage and I wouldn’t see it grow,” she said.
The surgery revealed that she had stage 1 chromophobe renal cell carcinoma, a slow-growing, rare form of kidney cancer affecting approximately 5 percent of cases. Her doctors believe she lived with it for up to five years without knowing it. Annamaria claims doctors had previously dismissed the concerns, leaving her both “surprised and angry” at the diagnosis.
“My cancer didn’t get me out”
Fortunately, the surgery was a success and Annamaria required no further treatment, leaving her to focus on her fitness journey again six months into her recovery. However, now she is working on becoming a bodybuilder.
“Kickboxing was no longer an option for me – at least not training for competition. I just can’t risk an opponent kicking my right side and damaging my right kidney,” she said. “But I like to be strong and I wanted to get stronger, so I knew weightlifting was the perfect way to do that.”
While competing in two shows in November 2022, Annamarya is currently taking a break.
“I’ve spent the last two years trying to prove something to other people — that my cancer hasn’t taken me away, that my cancer hasn’t taken away my fitness, that I’m more than my diagnosis,” she said. “Yet my body was clearly telling me something I didn’t want to listen to – that I needed a break, I needed to focus on myself and deal with all these emotions I was running from.”
The mother works as an ambassador for the Kidney Cancer Association and as a certified fitness and nutrition coach, helping other kidney cancer survivors and people with kidney-related problems who want to take up weightlifting.
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