The last time I posted here was June 15th, 2014. Hubby and I were preparing to meet our son and daughter-in-law in New York for his entry into Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital. In Los Angeles he was diagnosed with Renal Cancer (Kidney – Clear Cell) just days after his honeymoon. We spent about 8 weeks in New York City this summer, the first time for a lung biopsy, as the cancer had metastasized there. It was a difficult surgery. His weight had dropped drastically before the surgery, and more so after.
In late July, a kidney was removed and he did well with that procedure. Amazingly, he was out of the hospital on the third day. The end of August, they returned to Los Angeles and we returned to our home in Oklahoma.
Two weeks ago he began a series of immune system strengthening treatments as well as the systemic drug his Sloan Kettering Renal Oncologist prescribed for him. He is doing well with both treatments.
Recent PET and MRI scans shows no other signs of cancer, other than that in his lungs.
I feel this is an opportunity for me to tell you some things about Renal Cancer that you may not know. Maybe it will help someone you know in a timely manner — an opportunity we did not have.
1. Renal/Kidney Cancer has few symptoms. My son’s symptoms began with what doctors on both coasts thought was a sinus infection. He had a cough that extended for many months. This was eight months before his diagnosis. Last Spring night sweats started, fever, nausea, and fatigue. As a friend and doctor in my hometown told me, it is NEVER good for a man to have night sweats.
RCC is often not found until the cancer is quite advanced because there are usually no clear-cut symptoms pointing to the kidney as the problem. Most patients have excellent kidney function. Any symptoms typically are quite general, such as fatigue, weight loss, night sweats, or anemia. Blood in the urine is usually a late symptom and is often wrongly attributed to infection.
Because CT scanning has become more prevalent as a diagnostic tool for all sorts of diseases and situations such as auto accidents, today RCC is often discovered as an incidental finding before there are any noticeable symptoms. When it is discovered early, the prognosis is excellent. However, even Stage IV patients can sometimes go into complete and lasting remission. Many Stage IV patients can regard their RCC as a chronic condition which is treatable. Even if they do not go into remission, it is not unusual for Stage IV patients to live for years with a good quality of life…
A very important note: Even if there is no indication of a genetic or hereditary component, others in the family should be regularly screened for the possible development of kidney cancer. Even cousins have shown an increased risk. Usually scanning should begin at age 35, and earlier if the diagnosis of a relative was made at an earlier age. The National Cancer Institute strongly recommends CT scans or MRI for this purpose rather than ultrasound scanning. Sonograms can easily miss kidney tumors. Source: International Kidney Cancer Society
2. Blood in the urine is seldom an indicator of Renal Cancer. It was not a symptom my son had. His kidneys seemed to be functioning just fine.
3. A chest X-ray about March 2014 showed nothing.
4. A CT scan rendered the diagnosis.
On my side of the family, there is a history of breast and prostate cancer. Sloan Kettering doctors, a doctor at Cornell Weil Medical Center, and our research, indicates a possibility that there is a genetic connection between breast, lung and prostate cancer, and perhaps Renal Cancer. Research in that area is ongoing. There is no known history of Renal cancer on either side of our families.
Had a CT scan been used as a diagnostic tool years ago, the tumor, which we are told began to grow 10 to 15 years ago in my son’s kidney, would have been discovered, removed and a Stage 4 diagnosis would not have been this terrible reality.
If your doctor will not approve a CT scan, you can pay for it yourself at most labs. Expensive, yes, but I would have done whatever necessary to get that scan, had I known what I know now.
As we sat in the Renal Oncologist’s office, it was apparent that my son, in his mid-thirties, is very young compared to the normal Renal Cancer patient. If the tumor has been there for 10 to 15 years, as they tell us it has been, this story began in his early twenties. Other than the cancer now in his lungs (Renal cancer, not Lung cancer), he has always been in good health. He has never been overweight, never smoked, never done drugs or had any kind of unhealthy addictions. His alcohol use was limited to an occasional beer.
We could not feel better about his urology surgeon, oncologist and lung surgeon. There is not a lot of success with this particular cancer. They were all visibly moved by my son’s situation at this age, and I could feel the conviction to do their very best for this very young man.
Both my son and daughter-in-law are pillars of strength. The day after the diagnosis, he went on an anti-cancer food regime with such determination that I was in awe the entire time we were with them in New York City, and believe me, it is not an easy way to eat. He continues it today. It would not have been possible to do without his talented wife who does miracles with a Vitamix, a juice extractor and a food processor. She whips-up incredible dishes, and delectable pestos with raw foods – brought in fresh every day, all with such imagination and devotion. They began doing the most that they could do, immediately. As a cancer survivor myself (almost 20 years), I did the most that I could do. There is no other way to handle cancer, outside of prayer.
Because of his age and his over-all health, and because so many of you out there, along with our family and friends, and their friends, who are strangers to us, are such amazing prayer warriors, and because of his strength and faith, and ours, we feel encouraged about his and our futures.
I want to thank all of you who left such encouraging, supportive comments on my original post. The offers of prayer, the scriptures, the emails — overwhelmingly humbling to both me and my husband. We are so grateful for you, and for our son’s friends and business acquaintances, who have been unimaginably generous and loving. May God bless you and hold you and yours in the palm of His hand.