Shaun Tierney is a long-term stage 4 kidney cancer survivor. At diagnosis, he was given little hope, but he’s now been on active therapy for eleven years. This is his story.
I want to offer a glimmer of hope to those of you who were recently diagnosed and are thinking the worst. I know exactly how you feel right now.
On Feb. 22, 2007, I was told that I had Stage IV, inoperable RCC that didn’t react to chemo or radiation. The first general oncologist I saw told me to get my affairs in order. Before that moment I had never even heard of kidney cancer. Fortunately I sought a second opinion at a highly regarded major cancer center.
I met with a specialist who took over my case and has been my doctor for 11 years now. The general oncologist’s original grim prognosis turned out to be inaccurate on many fronts.
So I know how you feel, my family and friends do too. The confusion and anxiety we felt were all encompassing. We had a million questions and most couldn’t be answered right away.
My advice to you? Take a deep breath. You might not think you have enough time to get a second opinion – but you do. Get to an RCC specialist if possible and stay positive. If you can’t get to one, find an oncologist who treats other RCC patients and keeps current on RCC developments.
Get involved in a patient community like SmartPatients or search for kidney cancer or renal cell carcinoma groups on Facebook. Share your story and ask others for advice. They might be able to recommend a specialist or a clinical trial that you might want to try.
So much has changed since 2007 and you have more options than I ever dreamed possible back then. I can’t tell you it will always be easy or without stress, but be strong and never hesitate to ask questions.
I have been on treatment all of this time and a crazy as it may sound, time has flown by. There are many people that can share their experiences and maybe help you over a bump in the road, explain a test, treatment, or life in general.
I don’t know why I survived this long, but I have and hopefully you can too. My RCC specialist said two important things in our first meeting. “Our goal is to treat your cancer like a chronic illness, such as diabetes. It’s called living with cancer” And… “I have examined thousands of patients during my career and never once found an expiration date stamped on the bottom of anyone’s foot!”
Shaun and his wife Mary live in Massachusetts.