Meet Leah Christoforidis, a resilient Illinois resident and mother of four, whose life took an unexpected turn when diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer during her pregnancy.

In this month’s Community Spotlight, Leah shares her compelling journey from diagnosis to advocacy, revealing how she navigates the challenges of treatment while championing for kidney cancer research funding. Read Leah’s story to discover the power of resilience, advocacy, and community support in the face of adversity.

A Kidney Cancer Diagnosis During Pregnancy

Q: Can you share your story with us, including your diagnosis and how it affected your family?

A: My journey with kidney cancer began unexpectedly when I was 32 weeks pregnant with our fourth child, Aphrodite. I experienced severe left flank pain after dropping the older kids at preschool, which led me to the hospital. What was initially dismissed as muscle cramps turned out to be a 9cm tumor on my left kidney.

I spent two weeks in the hospital, delivered a healthy baby girl, and underwent surgery the next day to remove my left kidney. We later discovered I had translocation RCC. Initially diagnosed at stage 1, the cancer quickly spread to my liver within four months, leading to numerous treatments including a major liver resection and radiation.

Q: How has treatment affected your daily life, especially with four young children?

A: While the treatments and surgeries have been physically demanding, the support of my wonderful family and friends has been indispensable. They believe in me and help me power through the challenges.

My diagnosis hasn’t stopped me from enjoying life; it’s just redefined how I approach each day.

Leah Christoforidis | Kidney Cancer Patient and Advocate

Leah, surrounded by her greatest support system—her husband and four children, stands strong in Illinois, embodying resilience and love through her kidney cancer journey.

Leah Christoforidis | Kidney Cancer Patient and Advocate

Leah Christoforidis in action on Capitol Hill, passionately advocating for kidney cancer research funding, making her voice heard in the halls that can make a difference.

Finding the Best Care for Rare Kidney Cancer

Q: Your RCC is a rarer subtype. How did you find the right doctor, and how did you come to your treatment decision?

A: Finding the right doctor was crucial, especially given the rarity of translocation RCC, which lacks a standard treatment approach. I traveled across the country, consulting with at least ten oncologists and surgeons before deciding on the best course of action.

It’s essential to self-advocate and find doctors who are willing to be creative and take risks. I eventually found exceptional care with teams at Rush in Chicago and Dana-Farber in Boston.

Research Advocacy: A Desire to Contribute

Q: You advocate for kidney cancer research funding. What motivates you to do this?

A: Being part of the KidneyCAN community has been incredibly inspiring. Meeting other people who are navigating similar paths and seeing the collective effort to advance research and care motivates me to contribute.

I believe that advocating for better research funding can significantly improve future care and outcomes for patients like myself.

“I’m Not Alone in this Fight”

Q: What inspires you on the harder days?

A: On tough days, the energy and positivity from the KidneyCAN community uplift me. Knowing that I’m not alone in this fight and that every small effort can lead to significant changes keeps me going.

Q: Is there anything else about your story you think could be helpful to others?

A: The importance of self-advocacy cannot be overstated, especially with rare diseases. Don’t hesitate to seek multiple opinions and to push for innovative solutions. The right doctor and treatment plan can make all the difference.

And always remember, you’re stronger than you think, and there’s a community ready to support you.

Leah’s story is a powerful reminder of the resilience required to face kidney cancer, particularly a rare subtype. Her proactive approach to treatment and advocacy highlights the impact of community support and the need for continued research funding to advance care and hope for all affected by this disease.

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Being an Advocacy Days delegate is one of the easiest and most impactful things you can to do to increase funding for research. When we work together and speak up, we make a real difference in the lives of kidney cancer patients.

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