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Inspired Community: Being Thankful for My Illness by Steven Piriano

My journey into health and wellness really began six years ago. Prior to that time, I exercised regularly and kept fit. I also avoided fried and greasy foods, and consumed what I thought was a healthy diet. Being an Emergency Medicine physician, I believed that I knew what it took to live a salubrious life. I had two young boys and had a fulfilling family life. My wife and I were happy together. I was busy with work. I felt well. Things were great.

Then it happened. One morning in 2007 I urinated blood. For a brief moment I thought I was dreaming. Then it struck me that I was indeed awake. “This isn’t right,” I said to myself. The urologist I saw that afternoon said that it was probably a kidney stone. He ordered a CT scan and we drove over the hospital to have it done.

The scan took only a minute or so to complete. After it was over I remained lying on the CT gurney for what felt like an excessively long time waiting for the technician to return. The door to the CT suite finally opened. But it wasn’t the technician, it was one of the radiologists who also was a colleague. The second I saw his face I knew something was wrong. He told me that I had a mass on my right kidney. He took me to the technician’s area. It was surreal as I stared at the monitors and studied the large mass growing from my own right kidney.

Next came more CT scans, a visit to an oncologist and a bone scan. The bone scan showed two areas on my left thigh bone that “lit up.” In the setting of a kidney mass it was concerning for spread of the tumor. Before learning about these two new spots in my leg, I had been fairly calm and confident. I knew that I would have surgery to remove the tumor and maybe some chemo and that would be it. I would be better. This new information put a whole new perspective on my condition. If it had already spread, was it too late? Was I going to die?

I cried with my wife that night. I knelt beside my sons’ bed and prayed, asking to live so that I could see my two little boys grow up. It was a frightening time.

An MRI of my leg followed which revealed that the two spots were benign lesions. I was so thankful. I had surgery and the tumor, along with my right kidney, was removed. I underwent a year of chemo and have been cancer-free ever since.

I have since both met and read about many other people who have been diagnosed with cancer and other serious illnesses. Like a lot of them, my illness opened me up to so many new things. I started reading books about healthy living, nutrition, the mind-body connection, meditation and God. I learned so much and gained an appreciation for so many things that I probably would never have been exposed to had it not been for my illness. Like many others who have been sick, I am thankful to my illness for that.

I cannot overstate the impact this wisdom has had on my life. My diet has changed—I eat fewer processed carbs and more vegetables. I practice yoga and meditate. I pray more. I am truly grateful for all I have. I try to learn from the people in my life. I’ve learned so much from my wife, my sons, my parents, and even my dog. Although I’ve learned so much, there is so much more I want to improve upon. I will be a lifelong student.

As I have discovered, it is vital for people to be open to new and constructive ideas. There may very well be insights gained that will have a positive and powerful impact.

Steven Piriano is a local practicing emergency medicine physician. He has a special interest in healthy living and works as an independent associate of a health and nutrition company. He enjoys expressing his thoughts about health and wellness in writing, with the goal of inspiring people to begin their own journey on the path to a healthier life. He can be reached at

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