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As a heavy equipment operator, I am used to stiffness and soreness in my body. There have been times I have ignored the pain, but my most recent experience reminded me why it is so important to get any pain or abnormalities checked by a doctor. What seemed to be back pain turned out to be more than just back pain; it was threatening my life, and I have the careful and thorough eye of Dr. Jonathan Mason to thank for catching it.

A large part of my time on the job is spent lifting heavy objects and driving a truck that jostles me about, so in 2007, it was no surprise that I started developing lower back pain.  As the pain increased, my wife, Janine, who works at Tidewater Orthopaedics, encouraged me to get it checked out. The doctor determined I had a bulging disc, but surgery would not be necessary unless it ruptured.

Throughout that time, my pain level was at about a constant seven on a scale of one to ten. Eventually, I went to sit down and the disc ruptured, sending a tremendous amount of pain throughout my back. I had surgery to fix the disc, and that helped bring the pain down for a while, but after a number of years, the pain returned.

This time around, the pain sat at about a six on a scale of one to ten. It was not as bad as it was in 2007, but it was bad enough that I couldn’t sit or stand for very long (I had to switch between standing up and sitting down quite often to make myself comfortable). I also couldn't work out at the gym like I used to, and I would have to stop driving the truck at work periodically so I could get out and stretch my back. My wife always says, “Many people put off going to the doctor for various reasons. I would rather go now and find out what the problem is so it can be properly treated than wait around until it is absolutely necessary and find out it is too late and we can’t do anything about it.” After hearing her say this, I finally made an appointment with Dr. Jonathan Mason.

Our family has certainly seen our fair share of orthopaedic doctors. Between my wife's five surgeries, two for me, and three for other family members, we have trusted the doctors at Tidewater Orthopaedics for them all. Knowing that employees trust the doctors enough to put themselves and their families in their care speaks volumes about the quality of care they provide.

First, Dr. Mason ran an X-ray and found that I have degenerative arthritis in my back, which is not a surprise given my history of disc issues. At that point, his job could have been done. It seemed as though he had diagnosed the source of my pain and didn’t need to run further tests, but he still ordered an MRI to make sure there was nothing else contributing to my pain. It was that extra step of precaution that allowed him to discover a large mass on my kidney. While my normal kidney was the size of an apple, my abnormal kidney had grown to be the size of a cantaloupe.

After Dr. Mason discovered this on May 19, I met with an oncologist and a urologist. I underwent an MRI focused on my kidney to get a more detailed look at the mass, and it was determined my kidney needed to be removed. Additionally, they performed a CT scan and a bone scan to see if it had spread throughout my body. Both scans came back negative, so it seemed as if we caught it just in time, but they would not be able to tell me that for sure until they could test the tissue once they removed my kidney.

On Friday, June 23, I had my kidney removed, and two weeks later, I received great news: after testing the tissue from the mass, the doctors confirmed that I am cancer free! It has been a slow but steady recovery, and I have chosen to focus on the positive. I couldn’t be more thankful for Dr. Mason’s vigilant approach. Had he taken the X-ray, treated my back pain, and left it at that, the mass on my kidney would have gone unnoticed. I am grateful to have found such an incredible medical provider with a kind, professional, and open bedside manner. He takes time to explain each step of the process and the reason behind everything he does, so I always feel confident in what he is doing because I understand why he is doing it. I will continue to see him for my back pain, but now I also will think of him as the doctor that went the extra mile and saved my life!