Mitchell M.

Kidney Cancer - Stage 4

MIchael M

I know I am here today because of City of Hope. Before I found CTCA, I was so confused by the differing cancer diagnoses and treatment options. I would recommend City of Hope to any family member or friend. The hospital was the answer to our prayers.

I was born in South Bend, Indiana, and I was the baby of my family, the ninth child! I had six sisters and two brothers, and we were very close. Surrounded by family with aunts, uncles and cousins all around, I always had someone to play with. Then in 1976, my father retired, and we moved to Lake Placid, Florida. I had to start all over again making new friends when I entered middle school there.

I was nervous about starting at a new school, but then I met Martha Lee. She was my neighbor, and we were both new to town. We rode the same bus together, and we became close. Our friendship comforted my nerves and erased my loneliness.

At age 16, we started dating. Our first date was attending an AC/DC concert together. After that, we were inseparable. Just a couple years later, in 1983, we got married. It was the best day of my life.

We started our married life in Florida, and we have lived here ever since. I work as a truck driver. The two of us have a lot of fun together, and we are very close with our families.

I’ve had my ups and downs, but knowing what I know now, I wish I would have listened to my body more. In 2017, my back was hurting. I finally saw a doctor, who said that I had lumbar issues. Looking back, I think it may have been something more. Later that year, I felt fatigued and tired often.

Then in March 2018, I noticed that I was urinating blood. I didn’t visit the doctor regularly, so I was annoyed when my wife told me I needed to make an appointment. I thought maybe it was a kidney stone, so I tried flushing it out.

Seeking out help

I finally listened to my wife and conceded that I needed help when it didn’t get better. I went to my primary care doctor, who ordered a CT scan without contrast. Unfortunately, the results were unclear, and we had to battle with the insurance company to get it to pay for another test with contrast. The company finally agreed when my wife continued to press for a re-test.

The results showed that I had cancer in my kidneys. I went to a few different doctors in the Orlando area to find out more about my cancer and treatment options. I received different diagnoses and treatment plans from each one. I was overwhelmed and confused, and I had continued to urinate blood for months.

Martha worked for a company whose owner was involved at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA).* After learning more about CTCA®, we called to make an appointment at the hospital near Atlanta, Georgia. The process for getting insurance approval and obtaining my medical records went smoothly. I scheduled my initial evaluation for July 2018.

Now, my wife likes to be early for everything, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that we arrived at the CTCA hospital at 6:45 for a 9 a.m. appointment. We walked through the doors, and it was quiet and peaceful. I looked around, and it didn’t even feel like we were in a hospital. I had never experienced a place like this before. I felt the weight of the world lift off my shoulders. I started to cry, and I told Martha, “This is where I am supposed to be.”

Just walking into the center, I had a positive first impression. I felt a sense of hope, and I just had this feeling that good things were going to happen. I went to my appointments and I completed my tests. Everybody I met was friendly, they greeted us warmly, and I just felt like a person, not a diagnosis. The doctors, nurses and staff were so warm and caring. They took time to get to know me and answer my questions.

I completed a variety of tests. I was still urinating blood at this point, almost four months from when it started. I learned that I was anemic. I was finally diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, and it had my metastasized to my lymph nodes.

I began treatment soon after my first appointment. Together with my team of doctors and clinicians, we mapped out a course of treatment. It gave me a renewed sense of confidence and hope. I was ready to fight this cancer.

Fighting back

CTCA identified a clinical trial that I participated in for a little over a year. I completed oral chemotherapy, and I returned to CTCA every six weeks for check-ins. During that time, I experienced side effects like diarrhea, nausea and fatigue. I worked with supportive care clinicians to help me manage my side effects. They provided nutritional support and naturopathic supplements to help me stay strong throughout treatment. It was truly whole-person care. Then the treatment began to plateau, and I needed other options.

Genomic testing was ordered. This analysis provides information about clinically relevant alterations to help match cancer patients with approved targeted therapies, immunotherapies and clinical trials. They tested my cancer for different mutations and identified a targeted immunotherapy that I started.

Just when everything was looking up, I found out that I also have leukemia. The doctors at CTCA helped ease the news by thoroughly explaining it to me. Of the four types of leukemia, mine was the best to control. At this time, I don’t need treatment, but I will have consistent monitoring.

Throughout my treatment, I continued to work as a truck driver. I couldn’t have done it without the whole-person care at CTCA. I also need to thank my wife, the best caregiver in the world. She takes my blood pressure and temperature daily and keeps track of it in a notebook. When we talk to the doctors, she is the one telling them about how I’ve been doing. I am thankful for her committed support.

I know I am here today because of CTCA. Before I found CTCA, I was so confused by the differing cancer diagnoses and treatment options. I return every three months, or as needed, to CTCA to manage my cancer. I would recommend CTCA to any family member or friend. The hospital was the answer to our prayers. I share my story with everyone I meet.

I cherish the time I have with my friends and family. I look forward to life after COVID-19 is under control. I am grateful for each and every day that I have on this earth, and I strive to make a positive impact with the life I am blessed with.

I believe so much in CTCA, and I am hopeful that new treatments and better technologies aren’t too far away. I imagine someday we will find a way to kill the cancer in my body. However, while I am still fighting the cancer, I continue to have hope. I have CTCA to thank for that.

* Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) is now City of Hope®, working together to expand patient access to personalized, comprehensive cancer care. Because this patient testimonial was written and published before CTCA® and City of Hope joined forces, mentions of legacy CTCA locations have not been updated in the interest of maintaining the patient’s original voice and story details.

July 2018
Treatment at: