Nadia Skrzecz: My Kidney Transplant And Cancer Survivor Story
I was born with polycystic kidney disease (PKD). The doctors told my mother that I would not make it and that she should consider terminating the pregnancy. They said if I were to make it, I would have lung problems. Of course, they were wrong and I did not even have lung problems as they had predicted. I was little, and a poor eater, but I did not need help breathing.
"Both of my kidneys were taken out to make room for my dad's kidney."
Early in the year of 1996, my labs indicated that my renal function was deteriorating. Both of my parents had their blood tested to indicate who would be a better match for me. Both of my parents were a match for me but my dad had better benefits (more vacation and sick time), and my mother was a nurse, so she was able to take care of both of us. In August of 1996, both of my kidneys were taken out to make room for my dad's kidney. From that time on, I was on dialysis until the time I had my transplant in October. After my surgery was done, I was in and out of the hospital due to numerous complications. Other than that, I have been healthy and blessed ever since.
"August 30, 2020, confirmed my greatest fear I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Turns out it was caused by my anti-rejection medication."
August 21 2020 is a day I’ll never forget. I ended up in the ER. For the past couple of weeks, I had been experiencing dizziness and double vision. Talking with the doctors they said they found something abnormal. Later that week I had a brain biopsy done. August 30, 2020, confirmed my greatest fear I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in my central nervous system. Turns out it was caused by my anti-rejection medication. Post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder. Or, PTLD. Since then and now, I have stopped taking my anti-rejection medication. The part of my brain that was affected made me lose my motor skills, speech, vision, and ability to walk. For the first month I was diagnosed I was unable to talk, use my hands, or even make facial expressions. I couldn’t even feed myself. I felt completely numb.
The next few months consisted of intense therapy (occupational, physical, and speech). I was able to regain my motor and speech skills thanks to the therapy I received at Shirley Ryan Abilitylabs. However, I am still receiving intense physical therapy to walk again - I am close and have come a long way. In addition, to the intense therapy I received, the next couple of months also included brain and body scans, sleepless nights in the hospital, and 8 rounds of chemotherapy.
February 13, 2021, I had a CT scan that revealed my tumors were gone. It was during the last chemo that I found that I was cancer-free. Of course, I was thrilled and happy.
"My platelet count was 0. Yes, 0. My nose was bleeding for 12+ hours, my mouth was bleeding, and I had random bruising throughout my body."
However, it was not my last chemo. My oncologist had me do one more chemotherapy – called “consolidation chemotherapy.” I had had 8 chemotherapies to put me in remission. This final chemotherapy was to keep me in remission. She explained that I was to undergo this chemotherapy in place of a stem-cell transplant – which was too risky for me and would possibly kill me. She also explained that this was more intense chemotherapy.
Finally, I underwent my final chemotherapy on March 8th, 2021. And she was right, it was VERY intense. My previous eight chemotherapies had been a cakewalk compared to this. I had bone pain, my hair fell out, I had no appetite, and it lowered my platelet count. This was the worst part of it. My platelet count was 0. Yes, 0. My nose was bleeding for 12+ hours, my mouth was bleeding, and I had random bruising throughout my body. I ended up back in the hospital. I was there for about 2 weeks.
" I recently had an MRI and it was normal. My kidney is healthy too."
I received multiple blood transfusions to get my platelet count back up. I also had high fevers and labored breathing. I got through it. Since then I have not been in the hospital, and have been feeling great. I am continuing physical therapy 3 times a week and working out a lot to get stronger and get my strength back. Slowly but surely I’m gaining back my balance and coordination to walk again. I recently had an MRI and it was normal. My kidney is healthy too. I see my oncologist every 3- 6 months now and taking everything one day at a time.