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Tumour called Lionel

by | Nov 4, 2014 | Personal Stories - Blogs

Lisanne Vos, IFBB Bikini Fitness Athlete,  is passionate about healthy living, clean nutrition, fitness and lifting heavy weights. Her kidney cancer diagnosis inspired her to start her blogs documenting her story and bikini fitness competitions as well as providing advice on fitness, nutrition, healthy and happy living, during and after cancer.
Lisanne has kindly agreed to share her story.
Last year I set a goal – to compete in my first bodybuilding contest together with my husband (me – Bikini Fitness, my husband – Bodybuilding). I wanted to be as healthy as humanly possible, create a physique I was proud of, see how far I could push myself and spend valuable time with my hubby doing something we both absolutely loved to do – lift weights.
I was focused and I was excited… then kidney cancer came along. But this only added fuel to the fire and I was even more driven, motivated and stubborn than ever to reach my initial goal. The ironic part of this whole story is that I had just helped nursing my grandmother in her final weeks of having terminal cancer (originally stomach cancer), so had seen with my own eyes cancer in real life – devastating and heart breaking.
It wasn’t until our family vacation to Turkey that I sub- and consciously knew there was something ‘not right’ in my abdomen.  When I was lying down I could feel, and see, a ball (a little bigger than a tennis ball) sticking out of my right side.  I also started to get dull aches and sharp pains in that side.  There are 2 specific moments that stick in my head from that holiday with regards:
1) I remember sitting beside the ocean with my husband and son, enjoying a little treat in the warm balmy evening (mint chocolate ice cream) and then shivering from a huge shape stabbing pain
2) Being in the swimming pool and feeling happy that the water seemed to calm my aches and pains.
I just knew there was something not right… but well, I was on holiday and I wanted to enjoy this precious family time together, so vowed to get it checked out when I returned home.
Off I went to the Dr who then referred me to the hospital for an ultrasound to “see” what it was…
In short, it was evident they could see my massive tumor (near to 1kg) on the ultrasound as they sent me for a CT scan that same hour.  Yes, I was nervous, but was happy to have a CT scan to get a clear diagnosis. Then came the moment of truth, sitting with the urologist (“why am I with a urologist?” I was wondering, as I had no problems at all with my kidneys, but OK – that’s where they sent me) and he received a phone call from the radiologist. His face changed and I started to get a weird fuzzy feeling – I just ‘knew’ what he was about to say
“I’m afraid it’s bad news”.
I thought, ‘Here we go, bring it on!’  Yes, they found a mass (nicer word for tumor) which they think is kidney cancer as a few of my lymph nodes are enlarged too.  He was sorry to say that it was pretty advanced due to the size of the mass (fabulous).
My first question was “What can we do?”  The solution: perform a right radical nephrectomy where they remove the whole kidney with the tumor attached.  To be honest I felt 100% OK with this answer as my thoughts were ‘get whatever is not supposed to be there out’.
I have no fear of surgery and felt confident in their decision.  He had to consult 2 surgeons in the department and then get back to me on a plan of action.  My heart sank when I heard the waiting list to get a kidney (and tumor) removed was 6-8 weeks and, yes, I asked if I would die in that time.
I was extremely lucky and grateful that I was operated on 2 weeks later.  That waiting time between diagnosis and surgery was an interesting period – I knew that I had this massive cancerous tumor inside me… but well, I just had to sit tight, be patient and ride it out til surgery day.  Writing became my therapy so I blogged all about my experience on:
I cannot believe how time can fly and it was just over a year ago that I couldn’t walk after having surgery to remove my right kidney with a massive (nearly 1kg) cancerous tumor attached, who I named Lionel – by the way, if you want to see the craziness that is Lionel, click here (don’t click if you are squeamish).
I remember those first days well – needing help to get out of the hospital bed, experiencing pain that I never believed was possible and overcoming huge hurdles like walking (more like shuffling) 1 step more than the day before.  They weren’t the most glamourous of days, but I wouldn’t trade them for any other.
I’m a huge believer in being thankful for everything that happens – the good and the bad. Having the goal (of standing on stage in a Bikini Fitness / Bodybuilding Competition) really helped me through my diagnosis and recovery – mentally and physically.
I needed a focus to take my mind away from the dreaded Cancer word and I needed to stay strong and stay positive to get through it all – so an athlete mentally was adopted.
As I sit here typing it’s crazy to think that I reached that goal and more.
My biggest victory was standing on the podium last weekend on front of 800 people with my battle scars and one kidney. Being alive and getting to the stage cancer-free was already a massive accomplishment.
Photo credit JLS Photography
Throughout my contest prep (in the lead up to the competition) I overcame and learned so many small and big things.  I learned about nutrition, weight training, fitness and the body/mind connection – all of which I have a passion and hunger for to become as knowledgable as I can.
I learned about, and experienced, self control and discipline.  I developed a huge passion for psychology and am fascinated about why we do things, our behaviours and emotions.
Kidney cancer, my goal, the competition and the sport of bodybuilding has changed my life. It’s crazy to think that the goal I set all those months ago has come to light.  The competition tan may fade but the memories of last weekend’s competition will last a lifetime.   A day we will never forget, and for which we are both extremely grateful to have come home with 2 prizes.  I couldn’t be more proud of Maarten who placed 4th in his class.
As for me.  Words can never express just how speechless and humbled I am at receiving the “Women’s Overall People’s Choice Award”.  A trophy which means so very very much to me.  A true honour. This past year has been an amazing one and each and every person who I’ve come into contact with (on and off-line) have a special place in my heart.  All I can say is Thank You for all the support!
I have an awesome coach Jerry Koolhoven who ensures that health comes first, especially with regards to my remaining kidney, and am very fortunate to be sponsored by XXL Nutrition and ICE76 whose support I am extremely thankful for.
This is just the beginning and I’m excited to work towards the next goal – the Flexcup, for which I’m currently in prep for. It’s been quite a year and as weird as it may sound, I wouldn’t change a single day – the good and the bad.
To stay updated on my upcoming competitions, as well as gain fitness, food and healthy living tips, check out

To follow Lisanne please click on the below links:

Photo credits:

<a href="" target="_self">Malcolm Packer</a>

Malcolm Packer

Malcolm is Chief Executive Officer at Kidney Cancer UK and Kidney Cancer Scotland and has worked with the charity in various capacities for over 15 years.