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Patient Stories

Voice of Kidney Cancer – Robbie Davey


After a misdiagnosis of metastatic thyroid cancer, Robbie thought his cancer battle might be over. But one doctor went the extra mile and ordered a biopsy that revealed metastatic renal cell carcinoma.  With the right diagnosis, Robbie was able to start the right course of treatment and his disease is responding! 

The cancer story for Robert Davey started in 2007 with the diagnosis of metastatic papillary thyroid cancer at the age of 35. With no thyroid symptoms, Robbie discovered he had three tumors in and on his vertebrate. It was the beginning of 11 years of surgeries, treatments and procedures. A total thyroidectomy, 4 radioactive iodine treatments, 6 weeks of external beam radiation and 4 sessions of targeted radiation, a chronic bone infection, plus over 20 spinal surgeries. A few times over the years he relied on a wheelchair or a cane for mobility. With every “up” in his story, a “down” was always just around the corner.

In late 2018, Robbie was feeling unexplained pain in his side and back, losing weight and starting to struggle overall. CTs and tests showed nothing new in his spine or hardware, his blood levels appeared normal for him. Ten days before Christmas that same year, Robbie’s 12-year-old nephew died in his sleep from an epileptic seizure and almost immediately, Robbie’s physical health declined along with his mental stress and grief. On December 18 after a visit with his family doctor, a mass was felt abdomen and an x-ray showed something new. That day, the doctor told Robbie and his wife, Michelle, that this was likely the end of the road for Robbie’s cancer story. He had become too thin and weak for surgery and exhausted all his treatment options. A week before Christmas, the Davey’s went home devastated. Robbie had to face his family and tell them the prognosis after the burial of his nephew.

Over the holidays, Robbie’s health continued to decline and he continued to lose weight. He was scheduled for a ct scan to confirm the diagnosis and on Boxing Day after suffering from shortness of breath, Michelle took Robbie to the ER where he was admitted for a week to get his oxygen levels back up to normal. It was at this time that it was discovered that the tumors that had been in his lungs for a few years had started growing and were causing problems with his breathing. Robbie left the hospital on home oxygen.

Over the course of January 2019, Robbie, Michelle and their 16-year-old daughter, Nina, faced the inevitable and planned for Robbie’s funeral. Friends and family came home to visit Robbie for the last time. By mid- January, Robbie was seriously ill and was using every ounce of his energy to breathe – and an ambulance was called to take Robbie to the hospital again. Michelle & Nina were preparing for not having Robbie come home from this visit. His weight had plummeted and mental decline was almost unbearable.

At the hospital, he was diagnosed with malignant pleural effusion and the ER doctor drained 1.5 Liters from his left lung for the first two days. For the first time in weeks, Robbie enjoyed a milkshake and was able to have a conversation. Robbie spent 9 days in ICU and was then moved to palliative care.

Fortunately, the orthopedic surgeon that has been Robbie’s main healthcare provider since 2007, organized for biopsies on both his new kidney tumor and the ones in his lung. When he reviewed the ct scan, he was suspicious that the problematic tumors (including the new kidney tumor) did not resemble the same thyroid tumors that have been problematic since 2007. The biopsies confirmed that Robbie had clear cell renal cancer and that the mass on his left kidney was 15 cm.

Surgery was not an option again due to Robbie’s poor overall health and low weight. However, treatment was available.

By March 2019, Robbie started treatment with a daily 800 mg of Votrient which is a life saver for him and his family. Votrient has been a blessing and has prolonged his life with his family and friends.

So far, his side effects with the treatment have been varied and manageable, allowing him to gain weight, participate in life and set goals to live longer. Every day has always been a blessing but never as much as at this moment when not long ago, the end seemed just around the corner.

Count your blessings & look for the silver linings in every cloud.

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