Jay Hyman - Patient Story

"It truly feels that I have a new lease on life. I try to enjoy every day to the best of my ability.”

— Jay Hyman, Renal Cell Carcinoma Patient

I’d been an experienced plumber for many years, and being that my job was physically taxing at times, I was convinced that the back pain in my lower left flank was associated with my work. When I noticed blood in my urine, however, I decided to seek medical attention.

First I went to the ER, where I was told to see my family doctor. My doctor referred me to a urologist, who ordered CT scans. The scans detected an 8-cm mass on my left kidney, and further testing revealed several small nodules on my lungs. I was diagnosed with stage 4 renal cell carcinoma on my left kidney that had spread to my lungs. I was 41 years old.

I was devastated and wanted to get the mass out of my body. I started calling cancer centers, including a large hospital in Philadelphia that had no open appointments for several weeks. Then I remembered Fox Chase Cancer Center was close to the neighborhood where I grew up, so it was the next call I made. I got an appointment the next day with surgeon Dr. Robert Uzzo.

Dr. Uzzo is an extremely soothing and comforting surgeon who assured me that Fox Chase was exactly the right choice for treatment. Two days after my initial consultation, I was in surgery. Dr. Uzzo removed about 20 lymph nodes to test for cancer involvement, and he conducted a minimally-invasive laparoscopic procedure to remove my kidney. Within about eight weeks, I was back at work.

After recovering from surgery, Dr. Uzzo explained that I could benefit by enrolling in a clinical trial because I was not a candidate for lung surgery due to the small size of the nodules on my lungs. Enrollment in the trial meant that I could be treated with a new medication, sunitinib, which had not been approved by the FDA at the time of the trial. Although the side effects with sunitinib can be severe, mine were reasonably mild and eventually subsided after some tweaks in dosing.

In the 12 years since my surgery, I have not missed a day of work. I recently had a cancer recurrence, but I am feeling pretty good and am treated every month. I am taking another top-of-the-line therapy – a new immunotherapy drug.

I have been an advocate for kidney cancer treatment since my initial diagnosis and have written blogs on the Kidney Cancer Association website. My posts have received more than 100,000 views and I have received emails and calls from all over the world. I continue to handle much of the physical work at my plumbing company and I exercise regularly. It truly feels that I have a new lease on life, and I try to enjoy every day to the best of my ability. I recommend that anyone with a diagnosis of cancer go to Fox Chase. They will do everything they can to make you feel whole again.

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