Thanking Ralph and Anne Groves for sharing their kidney cancer journey!
In November 2011 Ralph’s routine physical turned into a quick removal of a football size tumor from his kidney. The doctor came out to the waiting room and said it was a difficult removal, they tried their best to get clean margins, but there may be “TRACE CELLS” left I asked if he was still unconscious and the surgeon replied yes… at which I stated firmly, “then go back in there and get those trace cells”. He was not amused, neither was I. He looked at me quietly and left the waiting room. This became the beginning of our learning curve of “ doctor language” and “ patient comprehension “.
The next two years he was monitored with scans. In October 2013, we walked in to an appointment and the doctor, not the assistant, was there. He said that there were shadows in Ralph’s lungs and they just wanted to take another quick look…immediately. This was on a Thursday. We couldn’t take waiting until his next appointment for results, so we went to the hospital and agreed to pay for those written reports. We sat right there in the office of records and read them. Tears streaming down our faces, fear enveloping both of us. I walked up to give the lady the money for the reports, she wouldn’t take it. I never thanked her for her kindness. He had tumors, many tumors, in both lungs, stage 4 RCC.
I began researching everything. What a gift and a torture the internet can be. I said “ I began researching” because that’s what happened. I was too afraid for this beautiful husband of mine to read any bad information. Protective Mode firmly engaged. We picked Mayo and the surgeon scheduled thoracic surgery. Upon return to Mayo for surgery, we met with our surgeon’s assistant to go over everything.
During this process he stated that “as indicated on your scans you have had tumors in your lungs for about 18 months’. ??? WHAT??? We stopped him and said No, No his tumors just showed three weeks ago. He handed us the last 18 months of scans. The first pathology report six months after his kidney surgery clearly read, shadows of several different sizes appear to be present in right lung, suggest further testing. We never knew until the Mayo Clinic that he had any shadows in his lungs as early as six months from his kidney removal. And now the cancer had spread to both lungs.
It took such courage for my Ralph to set that aside and prepare mentally for this massive surgery. Deja‘vu : lung surgery finished, renowned doctor tells me he was able to remove 13 but could not get them all…. guess what I said ( lol) “is he still under?… go back and get them all.” He didn’t think it was any more supportive then the urologist did. But my concern is always Ralph. Ralph’s recovery was tough, he was tougher. He amazed me every single day. He still amazes me every single day.
Mayo said, the next line of treatments would require many many visits and that RCC is not curable, they suggested we seek treatment closer to home. We first went to CTCA then moved to University of Michigan (UofM). Our first clinical trial involved treatments that made him very very unwell. So we were asked to consider enrolling in a new Phase One Clinical Trial Therapy, the last place I said he would ever go. No no no he was not going to be a guinea pig. That arrogant statement was made much earlier in this twist on our journey of life with cancer. Scared, Hopeful, & Against the Wall, we agreed.
He went through tough treatments, and each time he’d show up for that treatment, at the Trial Therapy Room with his smile and positivity, we were met with love and caring and some of the most courageous Nurses Ever. They cared for him and by cared I mean “kept him alive “and I will NEVER BE ABLE TO REPAY THEM.
As of February 2017 the Phase 1 trial that Ralph enrolled in has worked for him and has kept his tumors from growing. After a year of no growth U of M informed us the pharmaceutical company had decided to pull the plug because not enough patients were getting results. Our hearts sunk. However our Dr. Schnieder along with U Of M pushed to let us continue, and after some months the pharmaceutical company agreed. Now U of M Is in control of the trial and Ralph & one other patient continue taking the drug. AND….drumroll please….. not only have his tumors stopped growing , BUT, his last two scans show shrinkage! Shrinkage people!!! We know that things can take a different turn Lord knows it’s happened many times but we’ll take it.
From the first call that Ralph had RCC, up to now, has been 8 years. Our journey looks different from our pre-cancer plans. He limps a bit, winces in discomfort or takes an extra rest . I try to keep the lid on “what if’s.” I must admit he handles this curve in our walk better than I do.
BUT, “ we still have a journey, we are still here, we live to fight another day and appreciate our walk”.
And yes we even joke about death, I have warned him firmly that we made a deal….“I go first”. Lol
So How are we doing? “ Better than we deserve.”
We pray this gives others hope. Let’s beat this together.
Hopefully Yours, Ralph & Anne Groves