On New Year’s Day 2017, Oswald felt terrible. He was weak, tired, and had trouble walking up the steps to his apartment in Canarsie, Brooklyn. He went to an urgent care center nearby and was sent home with antibiotics and an unknown diagnosis of either pneumonia or COPD. After a week on antibiotics, his condition did not improve, so he decided it was time to go to a hospital.
“Choosing where you go is so important,” Oswald explained. “So I left Brooklyn and went all the way to Columbia Presbyterian.” The NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center is a nearly a 25-mile drive from his home.
Oswald was immediately admitted upon arrival and began a nearly three-month, in-patient stay. His friends traveled to visit and keep his spirits up during those long, difficult days. A biopsy revealed he had stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer that had spread throughout his body, including his lymph nodes. His oncologist informed him that his tumor expressed high levels of PD-L1, a protein that suppresses the immune system. This, his doctor explained, made him a good candidate for the recently FDA-approved PD-L1-blocking immunotherapy pembrolizumab (Keytruda®).
In February 2017, Oswald became one of the first patients to receive this treatment as first-line therapy for non-small cell lung cancer. He was able to return home just one week after his first infusion, just shy of two months from his diagnosis. After his second infusion, scans showed that the cancer had shrunk dramatically. He was able to regain healthy weight, resume work, and get back to the gym. Almost three years later, he continues to receive immunotherapy treatment every nine weeks. Today, Oswald has no evidence of disease.
“I wouldn’t be here if somewhere, someone didn’t believe in immunotherapy,” he emphasized. “My number one advice is to find out as much as you can. I didn't know about immunotherapy. Most people out there think chemo and radiation when they hear cancer. You need to be open to the newness of immunotherapy.”
Oswald is speaking at the 2020 CRI Virtual Immunotherapy Patient Summit on December 5, 2020. Register to learn more about Oswald's journey and how to advocate for the best cancer care.
Register for the CRI Virtual Immunotherapy Patient Summit