A Diagnosis of Kidney Cancer
I was diagnosed on September 3, 2019, after almost 9 months of what I thought were kidney stones. I’m lucky that my best friend is a nephrologist. She kept telling me to come into her clinic, and I kept putting it off.
I finally went in for bloodwork and a urinalysis, and they were perfect. She ordered a non-contrast CT just to rule out kidney cancer and found a 9.8cm tumor on my left kidney.
Over the next three months, I had a nephrectomy, left hip rod insertion, and radiation, and I also started immunotherapy.
While cancer is horrible, it is a community filled with great people. Before I was diagnosed, I worked really hard to keep my life segmented. Diagnosis cracked me open emotionally because you can’t maintain that type of segmentation when you are in the midst of cancer. So I never had a problem sharing my diagnosis and actually created a PowerPoint deck called “What’s Wrong with Michael” for my employees when I was diagnosed.
Cancer is not a pleasant experience, but ultimately I am better for it. I try see the goodness in all people and find humor in the situations we go through as patients. I have also had a chance to meet some amazing people.
Visualizing What He's Up Against
Working When You Have Cancer
Seek out an expert in kidney cancer. I have a great local oncologist who manages my side effects, as well as an expert in RCC only about two hours away who steers the ship. Having confidence in your care team is critical for your mental and physical wellbeing.
How has your diagnosis impacted you in the workplace?
It has been challenging, at times, to maintain my role while working through side effects. I’m lucky that I can work remotely most of the time and schedule work around my doctor’s appointments.
I also have a great team that has helped pick up the slack during the really rough times in my treatment. I feel like I still have something to contribute with my role in the company, so I’ve decided to continue working full-time. From the day of my diagnosis, I have been very transparent with my employees, co-owners, and customers.
Advocating for Himself and Others
When my cancer progressed while I was on immunotherapy treatment, my local oncologist recommended seeking an expert, and I had the same desire. Any treatment change decision is a fork in the road, and I wanted to have the best possible advice.
An RCC expert had recently relocated to only 2 hours away from me. I chose to visit him because I could drive there and he had excellent credentials, as well as personal recommendations from others I know. People I met in patient advocacy groups were critical in helping me make a connection with an expert in RCC.
I made sure my insurance would cover my care, and it did. I haven’t had any issues with coverage for seeing my doctor or getting scans out of state.
What made you decide to advocate for kidney cancer research funding?
My goal when I was diagnosed was to be alive for 5 years. I knew in 5 years there would be new treatments to hopefully help me live even longer.
Robust research funding is critical to developing new treatments and attracting young researchers to kidney cancer, and I can help increase this funding by talking with my representatives.
KidneyCAN has a great framework and training program that makes it easy for me to do this.
What would you like clinicians and researchers to know about the impact of the Kidney Cancer Research Program (KCRP) on patients?
I want them to know how grateful I am for their work. Our lives are literally on the line and waiting for the cures and treatments they are developing.