As some of you may or may not be aware, I have been battling stage 4 kidney cancer since 2013. Let me rephrase that. My wife Tanisha and I have been battling this cancer since 2013. This cancer has invaded my body, but my wife is battling it just as hard as I am. I couldn’t make it on this journey with Jesus Christ and Tanisha by my side.
Since last December, I have been receiving treatment at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, AZ. I have received excellent care from my oncology team. However, the distance to the clinic has always been a struggle. So, I have had to say “goodbye” to Mayo Clinic and go “home” again.
Where is home you may ask? Well in for my cancer care it’s a place in Goodyear, AZ called Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA). Why do I call it “home”? Well, I began my treatment for stage 4 cancer at CTCA in 2014. I spent two and half years surrounded by a staff of stakeholders, clinicians, and doctors that genuinely cared about my treatment and well-being. These wonderful folks have been with my wife and I when the cancer closed in and nearly took my life in the early months of treatment. Then they rejoiced with my wife and I when the tumors began to shrink and some of the severe effects began to loosen their grip. This team of people make a hospital for cancer patients feel more like a home than a hospital. They are like family.
Do you remember the TV series “Cheers”? Each time the character of Norm would walk into the bar, his friends erupted and said, “Norm!”. They knew him and were excited to see him enter this fictional bar. Each time I walk through the sliding doors of CTCA I can hear someone on staff say, “John!”. What a great feeling!
It is for this reason, that I am so glad I have made it back home. I was able to meet with my new oncologist this week. I was very glad to hear the treatment plan he has in mind moving forward in this fight against cancer. Once again, I can walk the main corridor of the center and meet fellow patients as we encourage each other in this journey and fight.
Well it’s been 3 months since my last CT scan at Mayo Clinic. I have been treating at Mayo Clinic Phoenix since December of last year for stage 4 kidney cancer that has spread to both lungs, lymph nodes, and liver.
I spoke with my oncologist today and received some great news. Many of the tumors have shrunk in size and others remain stable. So, the current target therapy drug I’m on, Cabozantinib, is doing its job.
Thank you all for your prayers and support. I know that my Lord Jesus Christ will bring about complete healing of this cancer in His time and in His way.
It is now officially Monsoon season here in Arizona. This is the time of year here in the desert that the temperature routinely is in the triple digits. This time of year can be incredibly beautiful in spite of the heat outside. It is also the time of year that the state get the majority of its rainfall.
There are dust storms that can pop up quickly. While these dust storms can be dangerous they are fascinating to watch roll in like a wave and disappear as quickly as it arrives. These storms can be seen coming in the distance. They appear like a wall of brownish tan fog.
Then there are the powerful micro bursts that bring a lot of rain very quickly and end just as quickly. The picture below is an example of a micro burst of rain that covers a both large and small areas. The one way I describe seeing or being in such a burst of rain is like a taking a shower provided by mother nature. Well, sometimes it’s a 30 minute shower. When the rain hits, those triple digit temperatures quickly come down and bring some cooling relief from the desert heat.
Next, there are the thunderstorms. A free light show in the sky several can occur several times during a week. Often, the lighting is cloud to cloud. However, the best shows to watch for me are the cloud to ground lighting storms followed up with the loud crash of thunder. Being originally from California, I hadn’t experienced many thunderstorms until moving to Arizona. They are powerful, yet so beautiful.
The only issue with the monsoon in Arizona is that you never know where the storms will pop up. One neighborhood of a city can be hit with high winds and rain and just one mile down the road it remains calm. It’s always unpredictable and our local meteorologists are just trying their best guess. Yes, this time of year can be very hot, humid and uncomfortable outside. But, the beauty of the storm clouds, sunsets, and thrilling weather make this area worth living in.
Houston. We have shrinkage.
My wife Tanisha and I received some great news last week concerning my treatment for stage 4 kidney cancer. The tumors are shrinking. I have been on my 5th line of treatment in the past 3 years. I am now on a targeted oral therapy called Cabometyx. I have been on this drug for 3 months now. I started off at a low dose of 40 mg and am now tolerating 60 mg dose. The scans showed that many of the tumors that are spread to my lungs, liver, and lymph nodes have shrunk by almost half of their size from a scan 3 months ago.
They also did some lab work and an echocardiogram. The test showed my heart is still healthy and functioning well. The labs showed my thyroid has a low function. They have put me on a low dose thyroid medicine for now. The next CT scan is scheduled for late June.
We are so thankful for this wonderful, encouraging news. The Lord Jesus has been faithful throughout this journey of battling cancer. I thank Him for sustaining me through all the procedures, treatments, and side effects. Thank you all for your prayers.
What the heck!
So earlier this week I was just getting on the I-10 freeway heading to my cardiology appointment at Mayo Clinic. It was just before sunrise and I noticed as I got on the freeway that traffic was slowing in the lane I was in. I reduced speed and got on the brakes. The next thing I know, “WHAM!”. I was hit from behind by a truck, who was hit from behind by a Dodge Durango.
All three of us pulled off to the side of the freeway. Even as we are off to the side of the road trying to call DPS the cars on the freeway were still moving pretty fast next to the accident scene. I am shocked that this didn’t cause folks to slow down. But everyone seemed to be in a hurry to get to work I suppose. The DPS officer got all of our information and about an hour later we were free to go. I noticed right away that my neck was stiff and lower back was bothering me.
I then returned to the 101 Loop freeway to head to North Phoenix for my appointment. But, I was really freaked out and got off the freeway to drive back home. I wouldn’t have made my appointment anyway due to traffic. I have never been afraid to drive before. But that day I was terrified. Can anyone relate to my fear of this?
Now I have to deal with the stress of insurance claims and medical visits. I have a case of whiplash according to the doctor and chiropractor. I am so glad I have my wife to help me to sort out some of the mess this has created. I am grateful that our Mazda 3 only had some rear bumper damage. The car is still driveable. Now I pray that the LORD will continue to give us favor through this process.
Well it has been too long since my last update. A lot has changed since then so I will bring you up to date. I had been receiving treatment for stage 4 kidney cancer at Cancer Treatments Centers of America in Phoenix (CTCA). As of December of 2016 my wife and I decided to change treatment centers to Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. We had been thinking of changing care facilities for several months prior to making the change.
CTCA was a great place for cancer care for my first two years of treatment. However, this last year we noticed that the changes management was instituting were not positive to my overall care.
My new oncologist is an expert in the area of kindey cancer and runs the clinical trials at Mayo Clinic Phoenix. He ordered a battery of new scans and blood tests to get a baseline to start my treatment. I had never had a CT scan using contrast before. I finally received a CT scan with the contrast and it proved most valuable in determining what was going on in my body. It showed that the cancer was more widespread than previously thought. It has now invaded my lungs, liver, lymph nodes, and left kidney.
I have been given a new targeted therapy drug to attempt to combat the cancer. It is called, Cabometyx. It was approved by the FDA recently and has had good success in clinical trials. This drug is now my 5th line of treatment. My oncologist has told my wife and I that if this doesn’t slow down or shrink the tumors my survival will be spoken of in terms of months. However, we are trusting in Christ our Lord for complete healing of this disease. I thank all of you for your continued prayers and support.
I recently had an MRI on my brain. I had been experiencing headaches and they wanted to make sure the tumors hadn’t spread to the brain. Praise the Lord! There was no evidence of tumors in the brain. The LORD is definitely at work here.
Hello faithful followers of this blog. I apologize that it has been a while since my last post.
I recently had a CT scan at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Phoenix. Again, I have been treating at CTCA for two and half years for stage 4 kidney cancer that has spread to both lungs.I am currently being treated with an immunotherapy drug called Opdivo.
The scan showed that the tumors in both lungs are fairly stable. There has been some growth but it is not significant enough for my oncology team to state that it is growing. That’s good news! Yet, the scan also showed that the mass that is where my right kidney used to be is growing. My team thought that it might be pressing against my colon and intestines. I had a colonoscopy last week. Fortunately for me the colonoscopy showed that the mass is not invading that area. On a side note, the procedure was very easy, but prepping for it was not. I had to drink this solution called Moviprep on two separate occasions. It tasted like a thousand lemon flavored sweet tarts in water. Needless to say I had to stay close to the bathroom after drinking this stuff.
The next step in this process of determing what to do about this mass will be a CT guided biopsy of the tissue. I am having this procedure this week. From my own observations of previous scans of this mass I am pretty sure it is cancer. It responded to treatment with the drug Votrient and was shrinking along with the other tumors. So far some of the options to removed this tumor include possible surgery or radiation therapy. But, I will leave the final determination up to the experts and my wife and I will determine what treatment option will will take.
More updates soon.
Recently, my wife shared with me how she was realizing that we as believers in Christ did not choose Him. Rather, Christ chose us. My wife is quite right in this revelation. Ephesians 1:4-6 states,
“In the Messiah he chose us in love before the creation of the universe to be holy and without defect in his presence. He determined in advance that through Yeshua the Messiah we would be his sons — in keeping with his pleasure and purpose — so that we would bring him praise commensurate with the glory of the grace he gave us through the Beloved One.” (CJB)
Wow! The Father chose us in Christ before the universe even existed. What a glorious thought. He chose us, we did not choose Him. He didn’t choose us because we were anything special or from some random selection. He chose us in Christ for His ‘pleasure and purpose’. Now some would argue from a theological point of view that there is no predestination. I would have to disagree with this viewpoint from what the text plainly states in Ephesians 1.
Jesus told his disciples in John 15:6,
“You did not choose me, I chose you; and I have commissioned you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last; so that whatever you ask from the Father in my name he may give you.” (CJB)
The same is also true for all of us who have trusted in Christ for life and salvation. What a great Christ we have. I would encourage all of you who are reading this to mediate on these verses and realize how loved and blessed you are in Christ Jesus.
I just had a CT scan a few weeks ago to check on the state of things in my lungs. The scan had some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the pneumonia I was dealing with has finally cleared up. The bad news is that the tumors in both lungs are growing not shrinking after 2 months of treatment using Opdivo. Again, I am being treated for stage 4 kidney cancer that has metastasized to both lungs at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Phoenix.
My pulmunoligist has recently begun treating one of my symptoms with something called Photo Dynamic Therapy. The drug used is called Photofrin. So, the upper part of my right lung in not only partially collapsed, but it is also blocked by the tumors. This new treatment is designed to open that part of the airway up by burning away the tumors using the drug Photofrin.
I had the drug injected into my body on Monday. On Wednesday I had a bronchoscopy procedure where a cool laser was placed into my airway and turned on to activate the drug internally. Basically, the tumors are now light sensitive and by using the laser it will destroy the tumors by burning them and flooding them with oxygen. Oxygen is a natural enemy to cancer cells. I will have up to four more procedures in the next week or so to clean up the dead tissue from the soon to be dead cancer cells.
While this will help to improve my breathing and overall quality of life, it is limited to only clearing up this one particular symptom. The remaining cancer cells in my lungs will have to be dealt with in other ways by my oncologist. I am hopeful that I will be cancer free soon.
Well it has been a while since my last update post. In January I began my fourth treatment for stage 4 kidney cancer in my lungs. I am now on an immunotherapy drug called Opdivo. It was recently approved by the FDA for treating advance stage kidney cancer. I just had my third dose this week. I have also had two bouts of post obstructive pneumonia which put me in the hospital twice. I am now having to have two antibiotics through an IV at home. My wife Tanisha is a good nurse/caregiver for administering these medications. I am due for a CT scan in a few weeks to see if the tumors are shrinking and if the pneumonia is completely cleared.
Yesterday, I had a blood transfusion with 2 units of blood. My last few blood tests have shown a steady decrease in my red blood cell count and hemoglobin. So my oncologist ordered the transfusion. I found out that my blood type is B Positive. I was given 1 unit of O negative and 1 unit of B Negative. This should help some of the symptoms I’ve been having to disappear I hope. I have already noticed that my oxygen saturation has improved and I need less of the oxygen at home. Other symptoms I have experienced have been fatigue, rapid heartbeat, and swelling in the feet and ankles. I am thankful for my team of doctors and care managers at Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
I will hopefully keep up to date on my journey with battling cancer.