Kidney cancer survivor: Don’t delay seeing a doctor

Prior to being diagnosed with kidney cancer, I’d never heard of MD Anderson. But the more I researched my disease, the more I kept seeing Dr. Nizar Tannir’s name. The type of kidney cancer I was diagnosed with — medullary renal cell carcinoma — is pretty rare, and most of the other treatment centers I contacted said they had no experience with it. They also told me to find a place offering clinical trials, which MD Anderson does. When I discovered that Dr. Tannir worked at MD Anderson, I reached out by email to schedule an appointment. Not only did he have experience treating my exact type of cancer, but at the time, MD Anderson was one of the only — if not the only — places that was actively conducting research on it. Fortunately, my kidney cancer treatment worked better than expected, so I never had to join a clinical trial. But it’s comforting to know that I could have, if I’d needed to. My kidney cancer symptoms I first learned I had cancer in April 2012. I’d been experiencing pain on the right side of my back and flank over about six months, and it was getting progressively worse. Eventually, it began radiating down into my groin. I also developed a cough that wouldn’t go away and started feeling a burning sensation in my lungs. I finally went to a local emergency room when I noticed a lot of blood in my urine. The doctors there performed CT scans and found a mass in my right kidney. They suspected it was cancer. Chest X-rays showed that it had...

My colorectal cancer treatment: How I’m coping

I was raised believing that everything happens for a reason, and that’s exactly how I’ve chosen to approach my treatment for colorectal cancer. I was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer in the November 2012 after I started experiencing pain in my stomach. At first, I thought I might’ve become lactose intolerant, but when the pain persisted, I went to the doctor.  A stool test revealed blood, so my doctor insisted I undergo a colonoscopy. Even though I was 67 at the time, I’d never done the procedure before because I wasn’t aware of the colorectal cancer screening guidelines. Sure enough, my colonoscopy confirmed I had cancer. Beginning my colorectal cancer treatment I immediately started chemotherapy near my East Texas home, and then at my doctor’s recommendation, I came to MD Anderson in June 2013 for a partial colectomy to remove part of my colon.  The surgery successfully removed all but a tiny spot of my cancer. I then underwent more chemotherapy to treat the remaining cancer. Thankfully, I was given the option of receiving chemotherapy under the care of Dr. Douglas Nelson at MD Anderson in The Woodlands, which cut the commute from my East Texas home by more than an hour.  I received the chemo combination FOLRIFI/Bevacizumab from July-October 2014 and then 5-FU/Bevacizumab, a type of maintenance chemo, from October 2014-April 2015. My scans showed that my cancerous spot was still there, but it was small enough that I got by with just observation for 4 months. But when the spot started growing after 4 months, Dr. Nelson said I had to resume treatment. Coping with setbacks...