Stage IV kidney cancer survivor: Immunotherapy gave me hope

When I was in my 20s, people referred to cancer as the “Big C.” Back then, there weren’t many treatment options, and the prognosis wasn’t good.  But my recent stage IV kidney cancer diagnosis has shown me how far medicine has come over the last five decades. In March 2015, I developed a persistent dry cough. My family doctor spent five months trying to cure it. After nothing worked, he ordered a chest X-ray. It showed a mass in my lower left lung. A subsequent CT scan revealed the tumor was 8 centimeters long and pushing against my laryngeal nerve. When the scan also showed a mass at the top of my kidney, I underwent a CT scan of my abdomen that revealed a big tumor on my left kidney. At that point, my diagnosis was clear: I had kidney cancer — specifically, stage IV renal cell carcinoma. Seeking metastatic kidney cancer treatment The first urologist I saw gave me only a 10-15% chance for survival, even with treatment. He recommended I start arranging for hospice care. But my family and I weren’t going to give up. My children connected me with a surgeon who agreed to perform a total nephrectomy, which would get rid of 95% of my cancer. I jumped at the opportunity, and on Sept. 16, 2015, underwent surgery to have my left kidney entirely removed. During a follow-up appointment, that oncologist referred me to MD Anderson, which was close to my home in Brenham, Texas. He knew the doctors there would be equipped to handle my case. That afternoon, we received a call from MD...