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Patient Stories

Voice of Kidney Cancer – Larry Garza

Larry Garza

In May of 2016 I coughed up blood multiple times. My doctor recommended I go see him to avoid expensive emergency room costs since it sounded like a sinus infection. The next day I went it and alas, I had a sinus infection. For precautionary purposes he ordered a chest scan to rule out any other issues and ease my anxiety.

After my scans results came in they found a 5cm mass in my right lung. Being a social smoker I immediately threw out the pack of cigarettes in my pocket as well as apathy towards smoking.

They were concerned with what appeared to be a mass in my abdomen but needed to order an abdomen/pelvis scan and another chest scan this time with contrast. When those results came in it turned out that I had a 7cm mass on my right kidney.

Transitioning to an oncologist with Texas Oncology and a Urologist from our University hospital, after a biopsy of my lung mass, I was diagnosed with clear cell renal cell carcinoma (CCRCC).

I had a radical right nephrectomy and the right middle lobe of my lung was removed two weeks later.

The weeks that followed were bittersweet. My oncologist insisted I start a chemotherapy treatment. Having no knowledge at the time, I figured that was bound to be the case. When I saw my urologist and told him, he immediately asked to call the oncologist, explaining that RCC does not respond to chemo and wanted a clear explanation. Turned out it was a clinical trial that the oncologist was going to sign me up for without explaining it was a trial.

Our next appointment with the oncologist was heated and I left the practice after hearing of other horror stories from them. Long of the short, asking a doctor questions shouldn’t resort in an argument where the doctor asks if you have a medical degree.

That November, election night, I started to have trouble reading the television. It looked like Russian text. I asked my wife about this. Moments later I blacked out awakening to EMS in my house and my wife crying. I was rushed to an ER where they did a CT scan and found a mass in my brain causing a seizure.

After months of seizures and finding the right treatment, my last seizure was February of 2017. Preparing for the worst, we made a trip to Disney World that spring with our then 11 year old daughter and 6 about to be 7 year old son. I pushed myself to ensure they didn’t see me sick. We had a great time.

I had made a will and was waiting to die. I obviously didn’t. Years passed.

I went on with my life, getting my 3 month than 6 month routine scans until September of 2019 when they found a 2 cm mass inside of my left kidney. A partial nephrectomy was performed and the pathology showed it was not a met, but a new CCRCC.

Then the pandemic hit and while in quarantine in May of 2020, I started to urinate blood. After being unable to pass urine, another 2cm mass was found in my left kidney as well as sub-centimeter lymph nodes and sub-centimeter sized nodules in my lung that had both grown since my last set of scans.

In the ER, I went into kidney failure and a nephrostomy tube was place in my left kidney in order to pass urine, blood and clots.

After months of ER visits and hospital stays during the height of the pandemic, on my daughters 15th birthday, I was put on immunotherapy treatment. A combination of Keytruda IV and daily Inlyta tablets in August.

It slowed the progress, spread and growth but my urologist insisted I have a cyroablation of the larger tumor. The radiologist performed the procedure as best he could January of 2021 and I was also able to have my nephrostomy bag removed in February.

I still take my immunotherapy and fight everyday. This is the most it has affected me physically. I’ve lost over 50lbs, still urinate blood from time to time, and am very weak.

I am a Texas based standup comedian and used to use my experience for my act. This recent battle I have yet to find the humor in.

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