As told to Britt Julious
I was sick for about a year, coughing all the time and throwing up.
They diagnosed me with acid reflux, [but] a year after, I got really bad pains in my stomach and went to the emergency room thinking it was going to be my appendix. Through a CAT scan, they discovered a big tumor on my kidney that was pushing everything up and out. [I was] devastated. They [had] just kept saying, ‘Oh, [you] have an acid reflux problem.’ That’s what they kept telling me without testing me for anything.
I had surgery and had the kidney removed. Then I started doing [oral chemo]. I’ve been on four different pills and I’ve done two other treatments. I did interleukin and then I did a [clinical] trial at the University of Chicago like a year ago. None of [it] has worked until the last pill [I tried]. It’s been a year in March, and so far, so good.
I don’t know why it’s been different. My doctor just says everybody responds differently. There are two pills I take together. I feel better overall so far because the last three scans I’ve had have shown there’s no activity of the cancer. I was diagnosed in November 2013 and six months later, I found out it metastasized. Life expectancy [for] kidney cancer is usually about two to five years, and I’ve exceeded that.
It really helps to have a doctor you trust and really like. My first doctor … I did not like or trust. She told me there was only one pill out there for me. If I stayed alive a year, that would be a good thing, but she didn’t think I was going to make it a year. I found a different doctor through some friends. I think you have to trust your doctor and be comfortable with your doctor to make it all work. He’s always a step ahead of the program. He thinks outside the box. He’s upfront with you. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything, but he’s already got a plan if this one fails. He’s been fabulous.
Now, I live for today instead of [for] a week from now. I try to do more things now than I’ve done before. I see the grandkids more. We travel a little more, try to see the world a little more. Jamaica was outstanding. The Netherlands and Belgium were great. Maine was beautiful, especially if you go in October.
I get a lot of support from my family and my husband supports and helps me a lot. He’s helped me truly through all of it, like 100 percent.