A healthy and fit mum has detailed the shocking moment a casual trip to the doctor turned her world upside down.
Mum-of-one Annamarya Scaccia, 40, went to the doctor by chance in July 2020 to check on her health as she was working on her fitness regime and was stunned when her physician noticed abnormalities in her blood results.
They advised she cut back on the protein powders she was taking and reduce her exercise to see if it changed the results, but the creatine levels in her kidneys also raised a red flag – with an ultrasound ultimately revealing a five-centimetre mass on the left organ.
The lump was cancerous and had been growing for up to five years without Annamarya suspecting a thing. “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,” Annamarya, who lives in Austin, Texas, told NeedToKnow.online.
Before her diagnosis, the communications director was a kickboxer, training for two hours a day, six days a week and was hoping to compete in Muay Thai fights. She had been focusing heavily on her fitness since 2017 after a long-term relationship ended, and was eating a high protein diet to help her become stronger.
The 40-year-old was fitter than she had ever been and had no idea that there was something seriously wrong. “There wasn't a sign or, at least, I didn't recognise any signs,” the 40-year-old said. “The cancer was caught because I had a hyper vigilant doctor who did her due diligence. She didn't like the way my creatinine and blood urea nitrogen levels looked, so she wanted to investigate why.
“I am so grateful she did.”
Mum 'surprised and angry' by diagnosis
The doctor’s initial concern eventually led to her diagnosis on September 30, 2020. Annamarya 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 didn’t yet know what type of cancer she had, nor what stage it was at, and worried she wouldn’t be around for her son Kelly’s, 7, future. “He was frightened of losing me and clinging to me wherever we went. I was scared that the cancer would be advanced I wouldn’t see him grow up,” she said.
The surgery revealed she had stage 1 chromophobe renal cell carcinoma, a slow-growing, rare form of kidney cancer, affecting roughly 5 per cent of cases. Her doctors believe she had been living with it for up to five years without knowing it. Annamarya claims physicians had previously dismissed concerns, leaving her both “surprised and angry” by the diagnosis.
'My cancer didn't take me out'
Thankfully, the surgery was successful and Annamarya didn’t need further treatment, leaving her to focus on her fitness journey once again six months after recovery. However, she is now 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 love being strong, and I wanted to get stronger, so I knew lifting weights was the perfect way to do so.”
While she competed in two shows in November 2022, Annamarya is currently taking some time off.
“I spent the last two years trying to prove something to other people – that my cancer didn't take me out, that my cancer didn't take away fitness from me, that I am more than my diagnosis,” she said. “Yet, my body was clearly telling me something that I didn't want to listen to – that I needed a break, I need to focus on myself and deal with all of those emotions that I have been running away from.”
The mum is working 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 concerns who want to get into weightlifting.
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