Written and submitted by Mike Jerome, July 2010
My name is Michael and this is my story. I am 76 yrs of age, widowed and remarried 11 yrs. ago. My late wife died after a long battle with ovarian cancer. My second wife is a widow who lost her husband to cancer. I say this to illustrate that we both have experienced the helplessness of a caregiver, having little or no control over the outcome. Now I am on the other side of the equation having been diagnosed in 2004 with kidney cancer that has spread to four other areas of my body, namely the stomach, my other kidney, the tail of the pancreas and my chest. I was referred to Princess Margaret Hospital.
It just so happened that PMH was looking for people who could qualify for a trial involving several cancer centers in Canada and the U.S.A. Fortunately I was a prime candidate; therefore, I became the first person in North America to be accepted into the program. The procedure was to first remove the primary source of the cancer, namely my left kidney and then the collection of a quantity of my white blood cells. Both were dispatched to a laboratory in the U.S. from which a vaccine would be produced. I then received a series of injections over about the next seven months or so.
Regular CT scans over that period indicated a reduction in the rate of growth of the tumors during that period, however, this improvement did not continue. I should emphasize that I experienced no side effects whatever whilst undergoing this treatment. I was then offered the opportunity to participate in another trial of a cancer drug called Sorafanib. This was administered in the form of a tablet. This drug also had the effect of slowing down the growth for a period of about another seven to eight months. Again I experienced no adverse side effects.
My oncologist then recommended that the next course of action should involve the drug Sutent, which I started to take, again in the form of a pill. The side effects were quite severe. Unfortunately, shortly after starting the course of treatment I developed some pains in my chest that was diagnosed as angina. Tests revealed I had a 90% blockage in one artery and needed a stent. The administration of Sutent was suspended while this procedure was completed. While I was in hospital a blood thinner was administered – a normal requirement after such an operation. Unfortunately, once again this was not without complications. I developed internal bleeding perhaps as the result of the cancer drugs and the thinner..
My right kidney which had been operating at about 70% before now slipped to 30%. My nephrologist was very concerned. I went on a strict diet avoiding potassium and sodium among other things. Over a period of about three months by blood results stabilized, and this has continued ever since.
It is now three and a half years later. I have not received any other treatment for the cancer. Quarterly CT scans reveal that other than a slight increase in the size of the tumor in my chest I am stable! My oncologist is currently considering, with my input, where we go from here.
Other than a somewhat reduced energy level I am at present experiencing a very good quality of life.