My name is Tony Kipkemboi. I was born and raised in Kenya before moving to the United States for college at 19 years of age. My college was paid for through athletic scholarship (cross country & track.) I am currently serving actively in the US Army as a Medical Laboratory Technician.
My Paraganglioma journey started before my first diagnosis and consequent surgery in 2015. I was already a year into my military career when I started experiencing palpitations, profuse sweating, and shortness of breath. I knew there was a bigger problem when I could not finish a lap on a quarter mile track. My blood pressure—resting—averaged around 203/110. I had several appointments that concluded with: “ you have high blood pressure and I will be starting you on 5mg of X medication.” The medications were changed and dosage upped every follow appointment for almost six months. The cycle stopped when I was transferred to another duty station in Georgia and had a new primary care doctor who questioned my medication in correlation with my age at the time—23. The doctor ordered scans and labs which came back abnormal with the scan showing a mass in my abdomen at the aortic bifurcation.
Surgery was done in May 2015. Blood pressure normalized and the crazy symptoms disappeared like they never existed; I felt like a new person. I went from not finishing a lap on the track to running 12 minutes for the 2 mile run. Fast forward 3 years later, I had a scan which showed a recurrence at the same location with no symptoms this time around. Second surgery was done in May 2018 and a follow up scan 6 months later. The scan once again showing tiny residual disease at the same spot. Currently continuing with yearly follow ups.
Like most of you, I have had worries and fears to overcome. I believe in living your best life regardless of the hurdles you have to jump over or go around. I am working my way to finish the prerequisites required for medical school. I have had amazing care from outstanding medical teams across the country and I want to be part of the team as a doctor. Don’t let the fear of uncertainty extinguish your dreams. Go for it because you are not limited.