Jesus Calderón - Patient Story

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"You will not find another facility that can top the quality of care and concern shown at Fox Chase."

— Jesus Calderón, Kidney Cancer Survivor and Clinical Trial participant


Jess and his wife Inez.Jess and his wife Inez.

At age 55, I was working two jobs and kept very active when I started having muscle spasms and lower back pain. I thought were probably due to kidney stones. My devoted wife, Inez, suggested that I see my doctor for a full evaluation. The scans my doctor ordered revealed a mass the size of a cantaloupe on my left kidney. In October 2009 my kidney was removed at a local hospital.

I had to take time off from work for the surgery and recovery, but I fortunately didn’t need chemotherapy or radiation. I bounced right back, faster than my medical team had anticipated.

Then in May 2012, scans detected nodules in both of my lungs, and I was treated with a bronchoscopy, a right thoracotomy, and a right lower lobe superior wedge resection. Even after this, I was able to continue working, but I relinquished my second, part-time job on the advice of my primary care physician and my oncologist. At that point, I started chemotherapy on sunitinib, which worked well initially and my nodules started shrinking.

By the second year of treatment, however, I needed a molar extraction due to loss of bone root tissue, which was a side effect of the drug therapy. Before and after the oral surgery, I took a large dose of antibiotics. My immune system was already weakend by the sunitinib so the aintobiotic really took its toll. I also began getting sores on the bottom of my feet, making walking very painful. Plus, the nodules in my lungs began growing again, indicating that sunitinib was no longer working for me. 

My oncologist at the time recommended that I contact Fox Chase Cancer Center to see if I could qualify for a clinical trial and possibly be treated with a new drug. To my great relief, I was accepted into a trial. When I enrolled, my doctors at Fox Chase told me that there was a 50/50 chance that I would be randomized to the study medication or to another drug that was already approved by the FDA.

Enrolling in that trial was a blessing because it gave me access to the novel medication nivolumab (Opdivo), an immunotherapy drug that was in clinical trials for kidney cancer. It was an answer to many prayers. My last treatment was in January 2016, and all scans since have shown no new nodules in my lungs, abdomen, or pelvic area. I did develop a dysfunction in my adrenal gland as a side effect of the treatment, and I will be taking medication to address it for the rest of my life. I accept this, knowing my cancer is gone.

Fox Chase physicians and staff have been amazing throughout my years there. My appointments have felt more like family visits, as I am made to feel welcome and comfortable. You will not find another facility that can top the quality of care and concern shown at Fox Chase.

Along the way I have been treated by several physicians who completed their fellowships during my treatment, and had an immediate connection with the medical oncologist who managed my treatment during the trial. My wife and I felt she was very personable and highly competent. We were impressed with her candor and concern for my well-being. I currently see an endocronologist at Fox CHase. 

My wife and I have three grown children, and we share our home with our beloved dog and two cats. I am a recovering alcoholic with almost 27 years of continuous sobriety and have spent more than 25 years in the chemical dependency field. I work at Acadia Healthcare, one of the largest behavioral health organizations in the country. I have many interests that I continue to enjoy: weight lifting and physical fitness, playing several musical instruments, gardening, landscaping, and traveling. I try to maintain a balance among my activities: my on-going personal recovery through AA and Al-Anon, going to the gym, participating in church activities, and volunteering in the recovery and cancer venues. And I always make time to ride my new Harley Davidson Sportster 1200.

 I am extremely grateful that I have another chance to enjoy life. I attribute my success and current excellent health with the opportunity to participate in the clinical trial and the genuine power of prayer and God’s amazing grace. I advise anyone who has received a cancer diagnosis not to think about throwing in the towel. Even if the initial treatment or medication doesn’t seem to work, don’t give up. A clinical trial may be a viable solution for you, just as it was for me.





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