CLEVELAND — March is Kidney Cancer Awareness Month. After a terrifying fight with the disease, Boys and Girls Club counselor Andre Townsend has made it his mission to raise health awareness. Townsend wants to take health concerns beyond fear of violence; he wants people to be aware of what’s happening inside their body.
"Thought I had kidney stones, because I had a real bad pain in my back area,” said Townsend. “Wake up, I can’t breathe. I’m like: okay, maybe it’s just old age. Doctor says: I’ve got good news and bad news.”
The good news: Dr. Venkatesh Krishnamurthi’s staff knew what it was. The bad news: it was kidney cancer.
“Kidney cancer is a relatively common cancer,” said Dr. Krishnamurthi. “One of the signs is microscopic blood in the urine. Visible blood in the urine, weight loss, pain in the back- upper back area."
Townsend's case was advanced, but still in the curable stage, Dr. Krishnamurthi said. Kidney cancer is rarely hereditary. It has a tendency to grow into the major vein.
"His case was almost up to the lower portion of the heart, so it’s removing the kidney and cleaning out that major vein," Dr. Krishnamurthi said. "It’s a life-threatening problem, for sure.”
After surgery, which Dr. Krishnamurthi said took eight to nine hours, Townsend made changes for himself. He switched his diet and lost 60 pounds. Now, Townsend is in Dr. Krishnamurthi’s office every six months.
The operation changed the message he shares with kids at the Boys and Girls Club.
“God was with me,” said Townsend.
Townsend's case shows that poor health isn’t always what someone does to you, but also what you do to yourself.