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On September 30, 2020, at around 11:30 a.m., I found out I had renal cell carcinoma – that, at 37 years old, I was among the roughly 82,000 Americans to receive this diagnosis last year. Less than a month later, I would have a radical nephrectomy, offloading a tumor roughly the size of my thumb and the left kidney it attached itself to. Only then, would I learn that I had chromophobe renal cell carcinoma (or chRCC), a rare form of non-clear cell kidney cancer that accounts for roughly 5% of cases. Before my cancer diagnosis, I was on a path to becoming a fitness coach and accelerating my kickboxing training. I also finally reached a place with my nutrition that felt comfortable—that felt safe after spending  most of the pandemic confronting my issues around disordered eating and body image. But all that vanished into thin air that September. I was desperate to keep my progress—to make sure my detour wasn’t prolonged. I researched and researched and researched. I made plans to ease back into working out. I formed a wellness support circle that would help keep me grounded—that would motivate me to test my limits but also encourage me to slow down. After all, I go all in—too in sometimes. The idea of “rest and recovery” is still foreign to me. But when it came to maintaining my progress, I was at a lost. I couldn’t find any information out there for people like me—for muscular athletes who happened to have one kidney. There were no tips or tricks on how to adjust your diet to your new reality—to balance your macronutrients in a way that would stymie the loss of muscle or change in body composition. Instead, I came across article after article on diets for people with chronic kidney disease. I could take but so much from that advice. I found no solace in the fitness space, either. I saw the phrase "for a healthy adult" used, time and again, as a caveat to advice around protein intake. The current recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein intake can be double or triple for athletes or even fitness enthusiasts who exercise heavily. But for people like me, with reduced renal function, the amount of protein we should ingest may be much, lower to minimize wear and tear on the remaining kidney. ​ My reduced kidney function doesn't mean I’m unhealthy, though. Health comprises a multitude of interconnected factors, which means one macro restriction cannot define health status. Yet, “For a healthy adult” is still used over and over again whenever any fitness professional discusses protein or any other  modification, whether nutritional or physical. It’s time we change this narrative. ​ As a cancer survivor with one kidney, I understand the challenge, frustration, and pain of navigating an industry not built for you. This is why I started Stillwell Fitness: to close the gap by providing the information, support, coaching, and guidance to help optimize their performance without sacrificing their health. ​ - Coach Anna Founder, Stillwell Fitness LLC

Chromophobe Renal Cell Carcinoma (or ChRCC) is a rare form of kidney cancer, accounting for roughly 5 percent of cases Although there’ve been significant advances in kidney cancer research, there is still so much that’s unknown about this rare subtype—how it forms, why it forms, its common risk factors, the patient profile, effective treatments. In most cases, surgery is the only answer; in others, it’s holding on to hope that a trial drug will work. There are no guideline-recommended treatments for ChRCC. In 2023, roughly 82,000 new renal cancer cases will be diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society. Roughly 15,000 will die from the disease. Most people who have kidney cancer are older, with 64 years old being the average age at diagnosis. Kidney cancer is very uncommon in people younger than 45 years old. Coach Anna was 37 when she was diagnosed. She is now 40.





Coach Anna's cancer story didn't end with the loss of her left kidney. In May 2023, she was diagnosed with papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) — less than 3 years after having stage I chromophobe renal cell carcinoma. Given that papillary thyroid carcinoma is also a slow-growing disease, it’s likely Coach Anna's two cancers existed at the same time. Her case is not unique; researchers have studied four known cases of concurrent PTC and RCC. What’s more, in 2022, researchers published a review of the bidirectional association between thyroid and renal cancers. And through the years, multiple studies have mapped out the effect of thyroid hormones on kidney function. (It’s also known that people with kidney cancer have an increased risk of getting thyroid cancer—and vice versa.) Yet, only a handful of doctors are aware of this link; several others dismiss the association. Because of her second cancer experience, Coach Anna now has another mission: to raise awareness about the link between the thyroid and the kidneys to inspire new research that leads to breakthrough treatments. Help support her cause by donating to thyroid cancer research.

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