The Diagnosis
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In the summer of 2004, Todd began to have some back pain, that eventually forced him to see the doctor because of the continual pain he felt.  The doctor said he had probably pulled a muscle and ordered him a prescription that Todd refused to take, telling me had to drive and work, and he knew the drug the dr ordered would inhibit his abilities to accomplish that.  So he worked, every day, in gradually increasing pain, until he went back to the dr, telling him it was not a muscle pull "but something deeper inside."  This time the doctor sent him to a urologist, and suggested Todd could possibly have kidney stones.


The urologist ordered an MRI, along with a few other tests, and concurred that it was probably kidney stones.  We were told that Todd would probably pass these on his own, but that they were very painful.  So Todd continued to work every day, in gradually increasing pain.  Late in October, the urologist ordered a second MRI, because they saw something on his right kidney ("very small, but it's there").  The closest time we were able to schedule another MRI would be mid-December.  Todd continued to work every day, in gradually increasing pain.


Todd wanted to get our Christmas tree early this year.  He knew the pain was increasing, and he wanted to cut it down and get it set up as soon as possible.  We got our tree the first week in December and were busily preparing for the big day that seemed to be quickly approaching with six children, including a one-year old.  We were excited.  Todd was turning 44 on Christmas day, and the children were filled with their usual joy and excitement this time of year.  


On Friday, December 17, 2004, Todd came home from work doubled over in pain and barely able to walk.  He was pale.  He sat down at the kitchen table and put his head down.  I was trying to prepare dinner and get the children ready for the Christmas program rehearsal that evening at church.  Todd said he was going to the Emergency Room.  I was shocked and scared.  I offered to drive him, but he said I needed to get the kids to the rehearsal, and that he would be fine.  He just needed to pass the kidney stones, and he was hoping to meet us later at church (he was going to sing in the program), or maybe even just an hour or two later for dinner here at home.  OK.  That sounded good to me.  Just pass the kidney stone(s) and come home for dinner.


Dinner came and went.  No Todd.  It was time to leave for rehearsal, so I gathered everything together, got the kids in the van, and planned to stop by the hospital to see if Todd's van was still in the parking lot.  I was hoping he was already at the church.  We pulled into the hospital, and the kids all screamed, "There's Daddy's van!"  My heart sank.  He was still here.  I pulled up to the emergency room door, left the van running for the heater, told the kids to stay put, and ran inside to see how Todd was doing and how long he would be.


I went to the nurses' desk and asked if I could see Todd Radle.  The nurse looked up from her work and several heads turned.  "Are you Mrs. Radle?"  I felt uneasy.  "Yes.  Can I see Todd?"  They told me to wait just a minute and started asking where the doctor was.  I could feel my heart beating faster and felt my stomach turning uncomfortably.  What was going on?  Where was Todd?  The doctor came over to me and asked if I was Mrs. Radle.  I asked him if Todd had passed the kidney stone yet.  He looked at me over his glasses, set his clipboard down, and said, "I don't think it's a kidney stone.  We took an X-ray and his right kidney is significantly enlarged. It looks like cancer."  Then he led me back to where Todd was, saying he was comfortable now and on a lot of drugs to relax him.  I walked into the room to see Todd sitting on a hospital bed, looking much better than when I had last seen him.  No way could he have cancer.  There was a big mistake.  He got up and hugged me and said he was feeling much better.  Then he said, "Do you believe that doctor?  He said he thinks I have cancer."  I assured Todd it was not cancer, but that there was some other explanation for his pain.  I was so relieved to see that he was not in as much pain as he was earlier that day.  I tried to tell Todd to be patient while they ran more tests and assured him I would stop back after rehearsal.  I told him the kids were in the van, and explained I had to go.  I didn't want to.  There were six children by themselves in a van that was running outside in the cold, but I didn't want to leave.  We agreed not to say anything about "the 'C' word" to the children, or anyone, until we knew what was really going on.  We didn't even want to leave that an option in our own thinking.


The rest of the night was dream-like.  Rehearsal seemed to go in slow-motion.  When it was finally over, I took the kids to see Daddy.  They were moving him to a room as we all piled into the ER.  He started waving to us and saying, "Here I am, they're taking me for a ride!  Come on!"  He had a LOT of drugs and the kids thought Daddy was very funny.  "Look at the pretty clock" and other comments had the kids laughing, but I was panicking.  This was bad.  We said goodnight and promised to be back in the morning.  I couldn't sleep that night.


Todd called me the next morning to report on all the doctors' visits he had received early that Saturday morning.  The doctors were certain there was a blockage to his right kidney, and were suspecting a blood clot; however they still could not expalin the cause for his kidney being so swollen.  They started him on antibiotics, and were treating him for an infection.  They had called for an oncologist to examine him later, because there was a possibility that there was a large tumor taking over his kidney, but the doctor in the ER said he had only seen this once in his 20 years of practice.


After lunch we all went to the hospital to see Daddy.  We stopped at the gift store and bought him balloons and candy.  Thankfully he was not as "funny" as when we left him, but he still was comfortable and very glad to see all of us.  After visiting only a short time, I knew it was time to get the children back home when I saw them looking around the room for hiding places, asking where the water fountain was, checking all the channels on the tv, and playing with the controls on Daddy's magical moving bed.  Todd asked the older ones to take the younger ones to the waiting room, because he wanted to talk to Mommy alone.  My stomach started turning again.  When we were alone, Todd told me the drs saw more spots on his lung, but that they were very small.  He said a lady came in who was very kind and soft-spoken, and held his hand and told him everything was going to be ok. She assured him this was not life-threatening.  She said they would send him home to be with his family for the holidays, do some more testing in January.  She was pretty certain that his kidney was indeed being taken over by a large tumor, and she suggested they remove the tumor and kidney asap, and treat the minor spots on his lung later.  He would be fine, but it was a long road ahead of us.  "You can live with only one kidney."  Todd couldn't remember her name, so he wondered if she was an angel.  He wanted to go back to work, but this doctor said to spend the time with his family.  Todd stayed in the hospital another night, and came home Sunday with lots of pain killers and lots of instructions.  We had an appointment with the urologist in three days.  We were scared, but confident that he would be fine.


After days of finding our way through a maze of medical jargon, we learned Todd's diagnosis:  renal cell carcinoma.