As a physician, cancer was not something unknown to me. I was involved diagnosing and treating cancer for many years. When my beloved wife was diagnosed with breast cancer it became my goal to get her the best medical treatment possible. As a physician I was lucky to have access to many resources and to know many people to turn to for help, but I felt that I had to do something on a more personal level. I took my love of cycling and became involved with clubs and organizations including the Lance Armstrong Foundation and Cyclists Combating Cancer, an international cycling club. I was among many people like myself who had an up-close and personal encounter with cancer and found great satisfaction in raising money to fight the beast we call cancer.
In 2003 I developed some symptoms that prompted me to get a CT scan. As I was sitting in the CT scan room, the x-ray technician came in and told me the radiologist would be coming in shortly to tell me what was going on. I quickly jumped off the table and went over to the computer screen, and I immediately knew I had kidney cancer. I went into survival mode. Within a week I had seen a urological surgeon who dealt with many kidney cancer patients. My kidney was removed the following week.
At that point, I went into a psychological shut-down. I was unable to do much of anything, let alone practice medicine. I was in this state for nearly a year until I realized that I must do what I told all my patients to do: Become your own advocate, because that’s the best advocate you can have.
After almost 30 years of medical practice I knew that this must be the path to take. I found that I could share my knowledge of kidney cancer with other survivors through an online patient online group. I learned that kidney cancer is inadequately funded, so I started working with Action to Cure Kidney Cancer, a grassroots organization of kidney cancer survivors whose goal is to increase federal funding for kidney cancer research.
My wife and I did everything together, though I wish that one of us could have skipped the cancer part. We went to Washington, D.C. on behalf of NCCS and lobbied together for the passage of the Comprehensive Cancer Care Improvement Act. My beloved wife Cecile died in Nov. 2008. This loss has strengthened my dedication to battle cancer with all of my faculties. There are still many people who think that cancer cannot happen to them, and there are still many who think that cancer means the end of life. I think that we all must vote for, support and find ways to cure cancer and promote quality cancer care and a better quality of life for cancer survivors. I am now on chemotherapy to treat a recurrence, and I will not back down.