Tanner Miller shares his story about how an RMC clinical trial at MDAnderson Comprehensive Cancer Center is shrinking his tumors and giving him hope for the future.
My dream was falling into place, rounding out my senior year of college at Kansas State University with a couple of classes to complete… future job in financial advising/commodities and then September 22, 2015, arrived. “The worst day of my life.” The common stomachache turned to flank pain diagnosed as Renal Medullary Carcinoma (RMC), a rare form of kidney cancer attacking mainly young people in their twenties with Sickle Cell Trait.
We had never heard of this type of kidney cancer, resulting in my mother turning to the internet and finding an article by Cora Connor mentioning MD Anderson (MDA), and Dr. Tannir, Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine. She was on the phone immediately with MDA, to schedule my first appointment of many in October and the initial trip lasting three weeks.
Every year on Halloween I reflect on my right renal nephrectomy (kidney removal) and the beginning of my various clinical trials and numerous chemotherapy regiments to come and believe me there has been a bunch. Some clinical trials were effective for months, and others not so much, with metastasis showing up throughout my body. Dr. Tannir described it as fighting a “war” and that everyone requires a different plan of attack. Cancer likes to camouflage themselves and adapt, so must we. Over the next 3 ½ years I traveled to Houston from my home in Kansas at least once a month but usually every 2 to 3 weeks and multiple spans of every week for more than six weeks at a time…to say the least, it can be grueling, but it’s worth the sacrifice.
With my MD Anderson team in the lead, the clinical trial I am on now has my future back on track after almost four years of treatments and many regular trips to Houston. I have been on a new trial since September 2018, and the scans have shown a reduction in all areas. Receiving the good news from Shehanie Brana RN, hearing Zita Lim PA yell in excitement, viewing a supportive text from Dr. Pavlos Msaouel MD, Ph.D., and receiving a personal phone call from Dr. Tannir MD, reflects the dedication and commitment this team has to win the “war.” This isn’t just a job to them; they treat me as they were treating their own children. I can say I have made friends with my MD Anderson team and want them to continue leading the fight for my cancer and all other afflicted with this horrible disease.
I am thankful for each day and will continue fighting the RMC “war.” Giving up is not an option; I keep a positive, upbeat attitude and feel blessed to have friends and family and especially my wonderful parents fighting this with me, rejoicing with my progress! I believe staying positive and fighting every day is essential. Do I have bad days? You bet, but who doesn’t, cancer or not. Cancer is comprised of small stepping-stones that move by move lead to the end goal of total remission. Take every victory no matter how small and run with it, it could get through some not so good news. I realize others are fighting “wars” and in worse shape than me so I am thankful every day where I am. I pray for researchers to continue the quest for RMC remission and an eventual cure.
Working together for awareness of RMC, even though it is rare, is essential. Many are not diagnosed with this disease until it has already metastasized. You know your body better than anyone else. If something does not feel right, get it checked out. Early detection is essential.
Tanner lost his fight with Renal Medullary Carcinoma in November 2019. We remember his contribution to the world and will continue to honor his spirit by doing all we can to find a cure for rare kidney cancers.
Renal Medullary Carcinoma is a rare form of kidney cancer. Learn about clinical trial opportunities, like the trial that Tanner is participating here!