Dave shares his story of being diagnosed with stage 4 Translocation Renal Cell Carcinoma, a rare form of kidney cancer.
My Cancer Journey…
In March, I will be celebrating – If that’s what you want to call it – my 2 year anniversary of fighting cancer.
Two years ago, I was 39 years old, and literally in the best shape of my life. I worked out 5-6 days a week, ate healthy (most of the time – LOL), and didn’t have any health issues. In fact, the only medications I took were multivitamins and the usual over the counter stuff if I had a headache, heartburn, etc. Aside from that, I have 2 wonderful kids (Alivia 9, and Logan 11), and a great wife – the love of my life – Michelle. I really did feel like I was on top of the world. I had a great job that I loved, and I made a ton of money. Life was great…however it wasn’t always like that.
I had a fairly tough upbringing, a single mom that struggled to make ends meet (working 2-3 jobs at times), and a dad that wasn’t around due to a heroin addiction. We struggled, but my mom always tried to make the best of situation by showering me with love. I had a little sister 7 years younger than me, and most of my childhood, I felt like a co-parent for my mom helping to raise my sister. Like I said, it was tough, but I truly believe it made me the person I am today…struggle and hardship can do that to a person. By the time I was 21 years old, I had moved over 20+ times. Regardless, through all of that, I made the best of a life that I loved.
Once I graduated high school, I made the decision to go to college – good ol’ Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. I believe I was the first of my extended family (both my mom and dad’s to attend college). That’s were I met the love of my life – Michelle. We started dating shortly after I graduated, and have been inseparable ever since. I would call our marriage something that all marriages wish they could be. We rarely fight, love each other dearly, and I can genuinely say that we were truly meant to be together. I see other marriages of friends, family, and acquaintances, and I am both humbled and grateful that ours is so good. Coming from a highly dysfunctional family growing up, it was my mission to not re-live that (for me, my wife, and my kids).
Then, things changed suddenly for me. I was having pains in my left arm, and after a few doctor visits, I finally had an MRI, that showed “something suspicious”. I was immediately sent to Penn Hospital in Philadelphia so that they could biopsy it. I had honestly assumed that it was an injury from working out. Long story short, the pain in my arm was being caused by a tumor that was eating into my bone. From there, things were somewhat of a whirlwind…as the doctor informed me that the tumor in my arm had traces of kidney cancer. To say that this rocked my world was an understatement!
I had surgery to remove the tumor in my right arm, and had a 15 inch titanium rod implanted through the bone. The diagnosis was stage 4, translocation kidney cancer, with spread to the liver, pelvis, arm and rib.
Translocation kidney cancer is extremely rare, and very tough to beat. It is treatable, however, as of now, there is no cure. During my initial diagnosis I was given 3-6 months to live, pending whether or not I had a good response to the treatments.
Since then, things have certainly had their ups and downs…I’ve had issues with the targeted drug that they have me on, and subsequently have lost a good deal of weight. As of now, I believe I’m down almost 40 lbs from when I was 1st diagnosed…and I didn’t have 40 lbs to lose. I also had two recent surgeries that were done to try to kill my main tumor and reduce some of the others. Additionally, over the past few months, I’ve had some additional spreading. My last scan revealed that I had a new spots on my ribs, spreading to the back of my skull, neck and vertebrae, and along with that, some of the spots in my liver were growing again.
Living with cancer is tough…some days I want to give up. It’s like being in a fight every day, and not winning – I mean literally getting your ass beat, and then knowing you have to go to bed, wake up and then do it all over again. If you are fighting, like I am, don’t give up. Find something that can help get you through each day. For me, it’s been my wife, my kids, my family, my friends, and new approach to living life through a series of “bucket list” items.
This all leads me to now. Unfortunately, because of the treatments, and health problems I’ve had, I had to make the difficult decision to quit working this past year (also, one of the toughest things I’ve had to do). My wife and I have decided that we are going to make the most with the time I have left…who knows how long that will be. Regardless, we are taking time to travel the world with our kids, and do as much as we can.
So far, since I’ve been diagnosed, we’ve traveled a few times to the Caribbean (my favorite place), Mexico, Colorado, Washington DC, Austin TX, Canada and Niagara Falls, and last summer we took a month long trip to drive across the country. We visited Yellowstone, Roswell NM, Wyoming, and the highlight of the trip was our adventure mining for Aquamarine and other rare gems on Mount Antero in Colorado with the famous Busse Family from the TV Show “Prospectors”…also another item on my bucket list. Recently, we took a short trip to Las Vegas to see my favorite MMA fighter Conor McGregor fight. It was my “Rockstar” trip, LOL…we sat a few rows back from ringside (very expensive tickets – but hey, you only live once), and while we were there I rented a Lamborghini for a few days. Like I said, we were living like Rockstars! It was a blast…and it’s moments like these and the other “bucket-list” trips that help me to forget about the fact that I’m living with Stage 4 Cancer. Lastly – not travel related – but I also have started to take guitar lessons to learn how to play…something I’ve always wanted to do.
My wish is that someday soon, things will change for the better. My hope is that I live long enough to see the cure for the specific type of cancer that I have, and watch my kids grow old, and spend many more great years with my wife, family, and friends. As of now, that cure doesn’t exist, so in the meantime, I have to keep fighting and take one day at a time.
If there is one piece of advice I could share, it is to live life to its fullest. Do NOT wait to take that trip you’ve been wanting to take, or start something you’ve been longing to do (playing the guitar, learning to fly a plane, sky diving, or whatever it is). Before I got diagnosed with cancer, I was stuck in the rut of living my life without a true understanding of what “TIME” really was. We all think we’ve got plenty of time to do the things we want…”I’ll travel when I retire”, “I’ll change jobs next year”, or “I’ll take that trip with my family when they are out of school”. Take it from me, TIME is not promised. If there is something you want to do, get out and do it. If you haven’t created a BUCKET LIST…DO IT…NOW! Don’t wait. If you haven’t seen someone in a while, and want to call them – DO IT NOW…Tell someone you love them. Or, tell someone they are an asshole (that’s what I did – LOL). Life is short, and you need to live it that way.
And, one more thing…
David Adams, BAMF Cancer Fighting Extraordinaire
Have you been diagnosed with translocation renal cell carcinoma? Learn more about clinical trials that might be open to you, including the AREN1721 trial that is recruiting translocation RCC patients now.