Jesus Calderon - Patient Story
"You will not find another facility that can top the quality of care and concern shown at Fox Chase."
— Jesus Calderon,
Understanding body changes and symptoms can sometimes be challenging. At age 55 in March, 2009, Jesus “Jess” Calderón was experiencing muscle spasms and lower back pain. At first he thought the pain may be caused by kidney stones. His devoted wife, Inez, suggested he see his family doctor for a full evaluation. Diagnostic scans revealed a mass the size of a cantaloupe on Jess’ left kidney. The malignant neoplasm was treated by a nephrectomy to remove his left kidney in October 2009 at his local hospital.
“The surgery was successful and the lymph nodes surrounding the left kidney were clean, thus no chemotherapy or radiation was deemed necessary at the time,” recalls Jess. However, in May, 2012, nodules were detected in both lungs during scans, and subsequent surgery was needed. Jess underwent a bronchoscopy, right thoracotomy and right lower lobe superior wedge resection. “I began treatment with sunitinib (Sutent), which worked well initially, evident through small nodules shrinking.” However, scans in November and December 2013 revealed substantial growth in the nodules. In addition, he developed side effect from the medication such as blisters on his feet. It was put on hold.
“Since the onset of my cancer diagnosis, I began researching the Anti-PD1 medication and was impressed,” says Jess. This class of medications have not been approved for kidney cancer anywhere in the world. His treating oncologist, who completed his fellowship at Fox Chase arranged for him to be seen at here to determine if there were any clinical trials he might be eligible for. Although there are other FDA approved medications that he could also take, he hoped to enroll in a trial and receiving a potentially promising new treatment. His wish came to fruition when he was accepted into a clinical trial at Fox Chase. In this study, he was told he had a 50/50 chance of being randomized to the study medication or another that was already FDA approved for kidney cancer. “Needless to say, the misfortune with sunitinib was a mixed blessing as it opened the door for my eligibility to be on this particular clinical trial.”
Enrolling in a clinical trial through Fox Chase has been life-changing for Jess.
Enrolling in a clinical trial through Fox Chase has been life-changing for Jess as it gave him access to a novel medication that is not otherwise available for kidney cancer patients. “My participation in this trial has been a true blessing. It has been an answer to many prayers,” says Jess, who is truly impressed with the compassion and dedication of the clinical trial office staff.
When Jess and Inez first met Yu-Ning Wong, MD, a medical oncologist at Fox Chase, who is managing his treatment while participating in the clinical trial, he said they immediately felt a connection “Dr. Wong is very personable and highly competent in the field of renal cancer treatment. My wife and I continue to be impressed with her candor and concern for my well-being throughout my clinical trial experience. Medical staff under her supervision, previous and in-coming medical oncology fellows, have been amazing and have also exhibited the same traits as she does,” Jess says. He works closely with his protocol nurse Lois Malizza, RN, who helps arrange his care. He has frequent visits to monitor for side effects on his new treatment and is encouraged to call with any new symptoms.
Jess works in the field of helping those who are recovering from chemical dependency and other disorders. His work environment is very fast-paced but rewarding. In his spare time, he enjoys volunteering to support individuals and families confronting both alcoholism and chemical dependency, as well as cancer patients. “For fun, I’m the musical director at my church. I play the keyboard, organ, and my bass guitar,” he adds. His other hobbies include landscaping, gardening, working-out at the gym and traveling.
“My experience with Fox Chase has been amazing and the 3-hour travel to Philadelphia and our 3-hour return home have been well worth it,” Jess says. “The staff here have consistently shown care and concern for my well-being as well as with coordinating any and all of my appointments. My appointments feel more like family visits, as I am made to feel welcome and I feel very comfortable. You will not find another facility that can top the quality of care and concern shown at Fox Chase, from the custodial staff, cafeteria personnel, nurses, and to the medical experts.”
Jess is extremely grateful for the opportunity to enroll in a clinical trial at Fox Chase, which has changed his life. “A little over one year ago, I could barely walk and was very weak,” he remembers. “Now, I’m 61 but I feel like I am 40. I can bench press twice my weight and run under a six-minute mile. However, Dr. Wong and others have suggested that I be cognizant of my age and health and not overdo with exercising. I think I will heed to their prudent suggestion."