For five years now, cancer has been part of my life. Wow how time flies. With 2020 being the five-year milestone, I am humbled knowing many cancer patients do not get five years after original diagnosis. Five years is truly a blessing. Each day is a blessing! We are here today because of all the brilliant minds working toward ending kidney cancer. The brilliant researchers and doctors can do their part because of all the generous philanthropic people supporting cancer research. We thank you for your support in fighting kidney cancer.
We had prayed that with the 2015 kidney surgery we would have ended this journey. However, cancer reared its head again in December of 2018. Since December of 2018, we have learned a ton more about treating systemic kidney cancer. For those that are not aware, systemic treatment is addressing the entire body vs a local treatment that treats a specific spot. In 2015, we treated the right kidney by removing it. Since it spread the logical course was to use systemic treatment.
Every person that has ever fought this disease knows there is a fair amount of uncertainty while on a systemic treatment program. This is one reason that we have found our relationship with our Heavenly Father is not just important but critical while on this journey. My followers know there are three things that I try to do each day to keep balance while in these uncertain periods. These three things are:
- Find something you are grateful for
- Be present to those you are with
- Pay attention to what you are feeding your mind, body, and soul
If I am effective in managing these three items, I know I am preparing my body for a better response.
We have been blessed with fantastic results for the last 24 months. My quality of life has been terrific. Now there certainly have been some side effect but nothing so intensive to prevent me from doing everything I would want in life while on treatment. The last two years have been two of the best years in my life. One of the gifts of this disease is the heightened awareness to how important our relationships are to our well-being. Mary and I along with the girls have grown closer than ever. We are enjoying the small moments together. These small moments include Saturday morning breakfast as a family, an evening car ride, Sunday family mass or the road trips to Cincinnati. There are certainly many other family experiences. A big part of this is simply living in the day. That is in today. Not yesterday, not tomorrow but today. As a family we have grown to appreciate each other more than ever. This is certainly a positive to a cancer diagnosis.
While on this journey, I have tried to push myself to continue strengthening myself physically, mentally, and spiritually. We are big believers that the proper mindset and the power of prayer lead to better outcomes. Knowing that I am getting stronger in mind, body and spirit put me the best position to respond to the medical attention we are receiving. As we all manage through the Pandemic, one gift of this has been spending more time with my three girls: Angelina, Caitlin, and Mary.
We are so grateful for advancements kidney cancer has made to make all this possible. That said, we knew we might have to eventually pivot from the trial I began on. With my basketball background as a kid, I have always been a good pivoter. We along with my medical team feel that it is in my best interest to try for plan B. This treatment pivot means trying a new trial and this new trial has seen fantastic result to date.
Two of my cancer awareness heroes are Jim Valvano and Stuart Scott. As a result of their public fight, they raised so much money for cancer research. Some of that money found its way to kidney cancer research. Both Jimmy Valvano and Stuart Scott were huge basketball fans. As I pivot, I will be thinking of them both. This pivot in part was made possible because of them. I am reminded of Jimmy V’s quote “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” Then Stuart Scott’s quote, “you beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.” These two men lost their lives wanting to raise awareness to cancer and as a result hundreds of millions of dollars has gone to researching cancer treatments. This alone has saved lives. Boo-yah! Boo-yah!
Kidney cancer is not as common as many other cancers. As a result, when a dollar is contributed to cancer treatment, proportially kidney cancer research does not get as much as other types. However, kidney cancer is certainly on the rise. This year there will be about 64,000 new cases of kidney cancer cases in the United States. That number is rising by about 3% a year. We need more awareness toward this deadly disease. I am one of the lucky ones that is still living but this year alone we will lose 14,000 to kidney cancer.
I think it is important for more people to better understand the value of trials. For trials to work, we need the funding and resources to allow the dedicated oncology professionals to find the right mixture that will abolish this ugly disease. We know that each cancer is a bit different and certainly many types of cancers are much more responsive to current standard of care treatments. These trials are making headway towards better results.
With clinical trials, there are different phases before going to the FDA for approval. My trial I started on was a phase 3 trial. Phase 3 is the last phase before it goes before the FDA. In most phase 3 trials you have two different arms to the trial: 1. The trial drug and 2. The standard of care drug. With my first trial we were so excited to randomize the trial arm. Just recently the FDA has approved the treatment I was on for a first line of defense. We have heard fantastic feedback on the trial drug in this plan B trial we are signed up for. We are certainly praying for the trial arm but know in our heart that God is two steps ahead of us and will be with us regardless of what we randomize to. With phase 1 or 2 trials, you often know going into the trial which drug you will receive. That said this more uncertainty to the effectiveness of the dose or drug as a whole.
The word gratitude does not do justice to those brave patients that came before me on phase 1 and 2 trials when there was less certainty on the trial results. We would not be where we are today without their willingness and hope for better results.
We are so appreciative that there is a very sound and optimistic plan B phase 3 trial. I am asking for two things from my active followers:
- Please pray for us as we pivot that my body responds as it can do and allow the medication to abolish this monster
- Please consider donating money towards Kidney Cancer Research
Let’s not stop with one minute left in the championship game. Jimmy V and Stuart Scott would want us to continue fighting. We can defend this opponent and score the buckets needed to win this game. We just need a bit more horsepower on the front line. The front line is you along with my medical teams working towards beating Kidney Cancer. We can win this fight together.
For all the worldwide teams that have worked on advancing the kidney cancer treatments, please know this one patient is so grateful. I want to do my part to bring more public awareness to where we are today. There is more work to be done. We appreciate your support to date and if you have money set aside for philanthropic reasons, please consider Kidney Cancer Research.
As everyone looks back on 2020, know that cancer treatments have advanced. In 2021, they will advance even more. May you and your families have a blessed 2021.
Keep spreading the gift of gratitude. God Speed.