Debbie was diagnosed with kidney cancer (renal cell carcinoma, clear cell) in October of 2012. The cancer was limited to her kidney so she had a radical nephrectomy, or the full removal of the kidney and cancer mass. Most patients who have a radical nephrectomy remain cancer-free and need no further treatment.
As is usual for her type of case, Debbie had periodic follow-up CT scans in the months and years following her successful kidney removal. About 2 years ago, her doctors discovered some small spots on her lungs that looked like they could be caused by the original kidney cancer having metastasized. However, they were too small to biopsy so no conclusive diagnosis was possible. After an extended period of slow or no growth, the spots began to grow and multiply toward the end of 2015. The spots became large enough to biopsy and in February, doctors confirmed the diagnosis. Debbie has stage 4, metastatic renal cell carcinoma.
Debbie and the family consulted with her medical oncologist about different treatment options. Debbie’s doctor was hopeful that she was healthy enough for High-dose Interleukin-2 (“IL-2”) as a first-line treatment option. This treatment has been proven to offer a small number (8-10%) of patients a complete and durable response, leaving them cancer-free while another 8-10% have a partial response.
After a series of tests, including cardiac and pulmonary organ function, she was found to be eligible and strong enough to endure the IL-2 treatment. IL-2 functions differently than chemotherapy, which is not effective on this type of cancer. IL-2 is an immunotherapy that supercharges your own immune system in hopes that it destroys the cancer cells.
Due to the level of toxicity, IL-2 is administered in the hospital, usually in the intensive care unit. Patients require close monitoring. The doses are given every 8 hours over a five-day period. However, most patients do not receive the full number of doses, as each individual’s ability to tolerate the side effects varies. The side effects are severe and include: vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, general fatigue, difficulty sleeping, itching and peeling skin, flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills and muscle aches; weight gain/fluid retention, low blood pressure and rapid heart rate.
Debbie begins IL-2 treatment on Monday, March 21st. Due to the nature of the treatment, visitors are not allowed. She and the family invite your prayers in lieu of visits.
After the 5-day period of doses, Debbie will be released from the hospital after 1 or 2 days of recovery. She has two weeks to finish her recovery then heads back to the hospital (April 11th) to repeat a 5-day period of doses all over again. After 30-days have passed, a follow-up CT scan will determine if her body has responded to the treatment. If it has, the 5-day/2-week/5-day treatment cycle will be repeated once or twice again.
Our ongoing prayer for Debbie is 1) She will be completely healed; and 2) She will have minimal side effects and endure them well. We will keep you up to date as she progresses. We love you all and thank you for joining us in this fight. #preparedforbattle.