David Roy, age 37, lives in Long Beach, California, with his wife, Josie Garcia-Roy. David was was diagnosed in March 2021 with non-clear cell renal cell carcinoma.
When Cancer Changes the Plan
For this month’s Community Spotlight, KidneyCAN spoke to David Roy and Josie Garcia-Roy, both California natives living and working in the Los Angeles area.
David is 37 years old and the co-founder and Chief Client Officer for Redefine Marketing Group, a digital marketing agency based in the San Gabriel Valley. Josie is an analytics supervisor at a marketing agency. They enjoy an active lifestyle that includes traveling, hiking, and exercising. David plays the guitar and enjoys hanging out with their new kitten, Clementine.
David explains that a kidney cancer diagnosis, which came just months after their wedding, upended the newlyweds’ original plans to buy a house and start a family. “You don’t expect to go through this in your thirties. I was diagnosed with a rare subtype of kidney cancer: Xp11 translocation renal cell carcinoma.”
Hope and Confidence
Though shocked by the diagnosis, David and Josie initially thought the cancer could be treated with a single surgery. “The tumor was very large — 20 centimeters — but my metastatic workup was negative, so Josie and I thought I’d get surgery and that would be that,” David recalls. He underwent surgery in April 2021 at University of California, Irvine, a Comprehensive Cancer Center in Orange, California.
David continues: “My surgeon, Dr. Corey Hugen, did a wonderful job of completely removing the tumor. However, digestive issues not long after surgery prompted a CT scan that showed activity in my pelvis. The biopsy came back positive for renal cell carcinoma. And just like that, my cancer had become advanced. Testing of my tumor’s tissue was negative for Xp11 but suggestive of FH-deficient renal cell carcinoma, another rare subtype.”
David and Josie once again needed to make a new plan. For treatment of his advanced rare cancer, they knew that finding the right doctor — one who specializes in kidney cancer — would be critical. They turned to renowned medical oncologist Dr. Sumanta Pal at City of Hope, another NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, California. David feels optimistic under Dr. Pal’s care, saying, “Dr. Pal is an excellent physician and clinical researcher who has the best bedside manner. Not only am I having a great response thanks to his treatment and clinical care, but he also gives me hope and confidence. That’s the difference the right doctor can make.”
David explains that hope and a grateful attitude help him on harder days. “It’s hard for me to be angry or sad when I think about Josie, about how lucky I am to go through life with her. Hope is a powerful medicine.”
David, shown here with their kitten, Clementine, says it’s important for kidney cancer patients to eliminate as much stress as possible. “This is the time to focus on you: on your health, on your healing. Prioritize the people and things in your life that give you energy. Cut out the things and people that rob you of energy. Laugh and play as much as possible.”
“As challenging and difficult as this journey is, it’s not without its benefits. It has allowed me to appreciate life in a much deeper way. It’s given me a level of gratitude that allows me to enjoy life despite the uncertainty. For those of us living with advanced kidney cancer, a message of hope and positivity go a long way to ease our stress and improve our quality of life.”
– David Roy
David is determined to make a positive impact on the lives of those living with kidney cancer. He and Josie serve as advocates during KidneyCAN’s Advocacy Days events, sharing their story with members of Congress and asking for robust kidney cancer research funding. “Organizations like KidneyCAN are making a real difference in the lives of thousands of people afflicted with this disease. I want my story, and what I’ve learned so far on this journey, to benefit as many people as possible.”
What Cancer Can’t Take
Cancer has certainly changed David and Josie’s lives, but they continue finding ways to take care of themselves and each other.
Josie says, “Self-care is incredibly important as a caregiver because you need to be sure you are healthy and well in order to be able to provide support to your partner.Joining the Cancer Support Community group out of Redondo Beach has been immensely helpful as I navigate my new caregiver journey.”
The challenges are real, but Josie acknowledges benefits of their experiences, as well. “This experience has truly forced me to learn to appreciate the present, and lean into gratitude. I now notice and am grateful for the smallest things I used to take for granted.”
David echoes this sentiment, saying, “Sure, a cancer free life would be great but I still wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else’s, in large part because of Josie.”
“More than anything I love experiencing life with my wife. I’ve lived and continue to live such a great life. Cancer can’t take that away from me.”