Written and Submitted by Don Urquhart, October 2009
A Bit About Me
I am 52 years old, married and the father of three boys. I am a career firefighter/paramedic, 31 years on the job and a Captain in the Montreal Fire Dept.
I was first diagnosed as a stage III b, with an 11cm x 10cm x 6 cm tumor with Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) involvement at the Lakeshore General Hospital in Montreal by urologist/chief of surgery Dr. Vladimir Kurgansky. Because of the complex surgery, I was referred to Dr. Simon Tanguay at the Montreal General Hospital (MGH).
From Surgery to Recurrence
On June 22, 2006 I had an open radical nephrectomy and resection of the IVC. All was good for awhile, however, in Feb. 2007, a ct-scan showed the cancer was back and I was told “This is not good”.
My Decision to Choose HD-IL2 (High-Dose Interleukin 2)
Dr. Steven Ades, an oncologist at MGH, STRONGLY recommended HD IL 2. He said it was the only thing out there that offered a potential cure for mRCC. The way he explained it, and he did explain the other options, I realized that HD-IL2 was the best option for me. Dr. Ades thought I was a good candidate. An appointment was set up with Dr. Francois Patenaude at the Jewish General Hospital.
When you arrive at the Segal Cancer Centre, you always start with blood tests. The receptionist asked me “Who are you here to see…who’s your Dr.? I said Dr. Patenaude. She then asked, melanoma or kidney? I said kidney… to which she replied, “don’t worry he’s got a protocol for that, the man is a genius, he will save your life.” My wife Margaret and I met with Dr. Patenaude and knew right away HD IL2 was the right choice for us.
HD IL2 treatment is given in “cycles” . Each cycle involves one week in hospital receiving 1 dose every 8 hours for a maximum of 12-14 doses, then a week off, followed by another week of treatment. After 2 months, we would do a ct-scan to see if there was any response. My first week was in the oncology ward, but I had some severe side effects that could not be managed outside the ICU, so the rest of my treatments were done in the ICU.
I guess I am one of the lucky ones. I had what was called a major response to the first cycle. I was getting pretty excited by now and was really anxious. All I could think about was getting back into the hospital and being “cured” before Christmas. So it was back into the ICU with all my new “girl friends” and Harold the ICU orderly who always made sure I had a TV with cable at the end of my bed. Each cycle seemed different for some reason; although none could be described as easy. All the side effects described in the literature…I think I had them all. I was determined more than ever to beat RCC, so I didn’t complain much.
Cycle two was done by the end of August….It seems scheduling is not an exact science. And I really enjoyed the 2 months off. The follow-up CT-Scan was done and I had a gut feeling about the results…
Two days before my appointment with Dr. Patenaude, the phone rang in the morning. It was a very excited secretary from Dr. Kurgansky’s office and asked if I wanted the CT results….now I’m thinking, Frances has never called me with results before…She said…”Don, the tumours are gone, completely gone, they seemed to have melted away.” So two days later Dr. Patenaude said the magic words…complete remission.
That was Oct. 31 2007…. I had won. Two years later (Oct 2009), Dr. Patenaude has confirmed that I am still NED (No Evidence of Disease).