There’s a new kidney cancer-fighting cocktail out there and I am about to try it out. No, you can’t buy it at your local supermarket or health food store. This one is only available from a licensed oncologist.
As a current cancer patient, I am about to embark on my sixth type of treatment in four years to battle stage 4 kidney cancer. What a statement! Four years of receiving five previous types of treatment and by the grace of the Lord, I am still alive and kicking. Now I am getting ready for treatment #6.
This new cancer-fighting cocktail I am going to receive is a combination of two immunotherapy drugs. The first drug I have previously been treated with and is called, OPDIVO. Perhaps you have seen the commercial on television with the tagline, “A chance to live longer.” The second drug is called, YERVOY. What a name, Yervoy. It sounds like something you could pick up at Russian deli.
This combination has been shown to be very effective in treating metastatic kidney cancer in clinical trials. The FDA has put this treatment in the fast lane for approval for general use for kidney cancer. That is great news for kidney cancer patients like myself, especially now during kidney cancer awareness month.
Immunotherapy drugs are designed to boost a person’s own immune system to fight cancer cells with the body. These drugs have less toxic side effects than traditional chemotherapy drugs for fighting cancer. I am very optimistic that this will treatment will be effective in beating the cancer cells into submission for myself and other patients.
Well a few days ago I had my first PET scan. No, it wasn’t done to determine whether I should get a cat or a dog as a pet. This is a scan to help my oncology team to determine the status of the current cancer treatment I am on. I usually only get a CT scan. However, I am not able to do a CT scan with contrast dye. I only have one kidney left, my left one, and my GFR is too low. So, this scan will allow my oncologist to get a better view of what is going on.
Apparently before the scan I was injected with a radioactive sugar solution. I had to wait in a special room with a very thick door and scary radioactive sticker on the door.
After a short while, I was brought into the room for the scan. It was a larger looking CT machine. I am very familiar with CT scans on this cancer journey. It usually takes 5 minutes and I’m done. This PET scan however was slightly different. It began with a short CT scan. Then the machine moved me all the way through the scanner. It would begin a series of scans from my head to the bottom of my abdomen region. Each set took about 3-5 minutes. The only problem I had was that my left shoulder began to ache from holding a “Superman” flying position with my arms during the scan. Finally, when I thought I could stand it no longer, the test came to a conclusion.
My wife and I met with my oncologist a couple of hours later. One of the aspects of being treated at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA)that I love is getting lab and scan results quickly is. We got good news, the tumors in my lungs, liver, and lymph nodes seem to be stable with no new growth. So, the plan is to continue using Cabometyx
(aka Caboazantinib) for treatment and we will scan again in 3 months. He also reminded me that he has several other treatment options if Cabometyx ceases to be effective. So far I have been on this drug for one year and it is still providing me progression free survival. Thank you Lord Jesus!
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is a high cost to paying for needed cancer drugs these days. Since it is the start of a new year, anyone with health insurance knows that they now have to meet their deductible all over again. For many of my fellow cancer patients their deductible for this year has increased. I am included in that group with a higher deductible with my new insurance company. This means that until the deductible is met, the cost of regular prescriptions and cancer drugs has a much bigger price tag. Let me give you a recent example of this high cost from my own cancer treatment. I recently filled out a copay assistance application with the help of my care manager here at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA). This was for copay assistance for my cancer fighting drug, Votrient. The cost of this drug for a 30 day supply is around $6000. Now I was approved for the copay assistance and they paid about $4200, which leaves me a balance of $1800. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have an extra $1800 lying around in my checking account. I met with my oncologist yesterday, and he is going to be looking into other options to assist with the cost or changing my treatment all together. Now, if my deductible was met, my cost with the copay assistance would drop my cost down to around $40. So what is the answer to the question regarding the high cost of cancer treatment drugs? I found this article online that sheds some light on this question.
I am so grateful now for every breath I am allowed to take. With some very aggressive tumor masses in my right lung, breathing these past few weeks has not been easy. But, I can see some progress from the previous two bronchoscopies done last week. Today, I was able to walk from my home to Cancer Treatment Centers of America with very little breathing discomfort. While I may walk slower these days, at least I can still keep walking. I am still living and breathing to fight another day over this cancer. Thank You Lord Jesus for your continued healing over this stage 4 kidney cancer in my lungs.
This upcoming week my oncology team is planning on giving me a single blast of radiation to the problem area in hopes of slowing down or shrinking the tumor mass in my right lung.
So, I have been having trouble with my breathing and coughing up blood since my last bronchoscopy this past Thursday. I decided to go to the clinic at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Phoenix. They checked on my oxygen saturation and it was in the high 80’s. So my lung doctor decided to admit me and run some blood tests. They have me on steroids and antibiotics to keep immflamation and infection away. I will be here for a few days until my next bronchoscopy early this week. He will be putting in a stint to try and keep the airway open.