Nina Kramer, a part-time Stockbridge resident, describes her eight-year battle with cancer in her book, ’The harrowing Medical Journey of a Cancer
Nina Kramer, a part-time Stockbridge resident, describes her eight-year battle with cancer in her book, 'The harrowing Medical Journey of a Cancer Survivor.' (Courtesy photo)

STOCKBRIDGE

Nina Kramer had enjoyed perfect health entering her early 60s until she was told by her doctor in 2001 she had bladder cancer.

Over the next eight years, Kramer made endless visits to the doctor, underwent more than a dozen surgeries, and learned the cancer spread from her bladder to her kidney.

"My first surgery removed all of the tumors," writes Kramer, now 74, in an e-book she published last year, "but they kept returning and growing, sometimes in massive numbers ..."

Her book, "The Harrow ing Medical Journey of a Cancer Survivor," chronicles in 169 pages the gripping fear she experienced at her initial diagnosis and the eight-year process of treatment that resulted in the eventual removal and replacement of her bladder, removal of her left kidney and surgical operations on portions of her right kidney.

Kramer said she's been cancer-free since 2008, but she's on a transplant list for kidney replacement.

In the book, she shares the extensive treatment she underwent, giving careful attention to medical details, lessons learned, and the emotional turmoil of battling cancer.

According to the National Institute of Health, there were 73,000 low-grade bladder cancer cases diagnosed in 2012.

Kramer was fortunate because hers was diagnosed early, but that would only be the beginning.

After multiple surgeries, including bladder removal, she learned at her six-month follow-up CT scan appointment that cancerous cells appeared in the lining of the urinary tract below both kidneys.

As heart-breaking as the diagnosis was, Kramer said she was especially disappointed a long-planned, work-related trip to China to collect material for an upcoming book would have to be canceled on her doctor's orders.

Writing the book was important to keeping her mind off the cancer, the part-time Stockbridge resident said.

In a phone interview from her Manhattan, N.Y., home, she said her own denial and her unquestioning belief in her doctor kept her from learning on her own as much as she should have about the disease. In hindsight, Kramer said she should have immediately sought the best treatment available, which she eventually did at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Following multiple operations on her bladder, she'd transfer to Sloan-Kettering, she said, where her bladder was eventually removed and replaced.

She'd also received treatment from expert surgeons at the facility to deal with the cancer in her kidneys.

"Denial as an emotion is important to deal with," said Kramer said, who wonders if she would have lost her bladder if she had received a second opinion. Kramer recalled the anxiety of watching her savings diminish while paying her share of health care costs. She was relieved once she turned 65 and was able to enroll in Medicare.

"Denial as an emotion is important to deal with," said Kramer said, who wonders if she would have lost her bladder if she had received a second opinion. Kramer recalled the anxiety of watching her savings diminish while paying her share of health care costs. She was relieved once she turned 65 and was able to enroll in Medicare.

She also said it was important to find ways to deal with emotions that included anger upon learning the diagnosis. That led her to take part in a support group and also to maintain a normal sex life.

"I didn't deprive myself and that's for sure," she said, describing the importance of sex in a two-page chapter. "It's a wonderful way to get away from it."

Kramer said it was also important to involve herself in the writing of her novel about China and continue to work as an executive assistant at a legal firm.

The book about China was particularly important to keep her mind off cancer and the operations.

And after doctors had surgically removed the cancerous tumors from her kidney, Kramer said she was able to travel to China to do research on invaluable information for her book.

"There was nothing that absorbed me more and I couldn't have nothing that did not absorb me," she said.

Her son Douglas said his mother "was under a lot of stress. She could be tired, but kept a positive attitude. It was really hard. She'd go to work and take time off from work for surgery. It was a lot of pressure for her because she had never been through anything like this. No one in our family has."

The book is available for $3.99 through online retailer Amazon.com.

To reach John Sakata:
jsakata@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6240.
On Twitter: @jsakata