August 6, 2019: I was experiencing: A cough I couldn’t shake. Unexplained weight loss. Terrible night sweats. Fatigue. Exhaustion. (Slept from after dinner until morning on weekdays, and all weekend long). and Digestive discomfort.
I KNEW something was not right. Everyone kept saying it was menopause.
My PCP ordered a chest x-ray and blood work.The chest x-ray showed four small nodules in my lungs. They told me not to worry – that everyone has them. But as a precaution, a CT was recommended.
August 8, 2019: I was sitting at my desk at work when the results came in. I opened up the Myhealth app and there it was, the diagnosis that changed my life.
“Lung nodules likely metastasis from renal cell carcinoma”.
I’m sorry, what? A. What is renal cell carcinoma? B. Did I accidentally get someone else’s results? C. What the hell am I going to do? D. No really….what the hell am I going to do?
August 22, 2019: Surgery day! A full open nephrectomy to remove my left kidney and the tumor we decided to name Felicia (“bye Felicia!”).
The surgery was successful and the mass was removed with clear margins. My recovery was smooth and relatively fast. I immediately felt relief of any symptoms and honestly felt better than I had in a decade.
Initially we decided to just keep an eye on the lung nodules with scans every three months. This gave me time to heal from the surgery. But we also decided to do an MRI to get a better view, which showed that I also had a spot on my pancreas. As a result of the MRI, we decided to start treatment.
February 2020: After discussions with two oncologists in addition to recommendations from a kidney cancer specialist at Sloan Kettering Memorial in New York it was decided that I would begin immunotherapy with Opdivo and Yervoy.
The first scans following this treatment regimen showed stability and some increase in size in both the lung nodules and the spot on my pancreas. By this time I was seeing a third oncologist, Dr. Ulka Vaishampayan, a specialist out of the University of Michigan whose career focus has been renal cell carcinoma.
Everyone agreed that the minimal growth was due to something called pseudo progression and that I should continue on with this treatment. Eventually everything started shrinking! With the exception of one pesky lung nodule.
December 8, 2020: Surgery to remove 1/4 of my left lung! See ya later Oscar! (The name of that pesky nodule!) The surgery was a wonderful success and I have healed nicely!
I will continue to receive my Opdivo infusion every four weeks for as long as it continues to work! I am so incredibly grateful for my cure team and the surgeries and treatments that have been available to me.
But you should know that I didn’t depend on those things solely. I knew that while the doctors were going to do their part I needed to do my part as well!
THERE ARE THINGS I CAN CONTROL!
Ditch refined sugar!
Whole food, plant based diet (no meat other than fish 2x a week!)
No more pop and a drastic reduction in alcohol consumption. It’s clean, vegan red wine in moderation for me!
Fresh Green Juice every morning.
Walking a LOT!
Don’t pay attention to statistics!
Share my story!
None of us are stamped with an expiration date! My advice to others is: Live life and be the best you can be!
Carie Gort is a stage 4 kidney cancer survivor. Learn more about what she’s doing to make healthy lifestyle changes on her Facebook Blog: Live Your Best Life.