When I was diagnosed at the hospital in San Antonio, the doctor told me immediately, even without a biopsy, “I'm pretty sure this is going to be kidney cancer.” They admitted me into the hospital right then and there, and wanted to schedule surgery for the very next day. The doctor said, “The best thing to do is just to remove the tumor kidney. You can live on one kidney just fine. People do it all the time.” Of course, I'm still trying to get over the shock of hearing the word “cancer,” so everything else sort of froze away.
I called my eldest daughter who is a surgical technician in the Rio Grande Valley. She told me to not let them do surgery. She said, “That's too quick, too fast. You still have to get scans. You need a second opinion before any surgeries.” So, she talked to her coworkers, and everyone recommended going to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
I trust my daughter with my life. She is part daughter, part counselor. She has knowledge that I don’t have. So I did it. I went to MD Anderson and I'm grateful that I did.
We got up there and the doctors told me there's three places that kidney cancer like to travel and that your bones, your lungs, and your brain. They said, “Let’s play it safe. Let's do a full body scan. Let's check it out, see, and make sure that it hasn't spread.” Sure enough, when the scans came back, it was already in my ribs on the left hand side, in a lymph node right in the middle of my chest, trying to get to my lungs, and at the base of my skull trying to get to my brain.
That's when they started talking to me about this clinical trial with this new immunotherapy. They were telling me for some reason, chemotherapy doesn't work as well with kidney cancer as immunotherapy. So, I had a conference call with my daughter, my brother, and my mother, and I just got opinions. I said, “This is what it is, guys. What do y'all think?” Unanimously, my family all of us said, “Yes, do it. Go for it, MD Anderson is on the cutting edge of technology from what we hear, they know what they're doing.” I felt safe with it.
So that's how we went with immunotherapy. That's how it all started.