It was just after Sharon’s 50th birthday in January 2009 that she started getting very bad pains in her right side which she originally put down to over indulging at her birthday. Our GP initially thought it was gallstones and then kidney stones, X-rays showed nothing but an ultrasound showed up a mass that required a referral to an oncologist. He confirmed that it was a tumour and within two weeks she underwent a full nephrectomy of the left kidney and removal of the adrenal gland as well. Luckily she had private health cover through work which allowed for such quick action to be taken.
The first two follow-up scans were clear however in December 2009 signs of secondary disease were detected on the lungs and liver and so Sharon was then referred to an oncologist for subsequent treatment. In January 2010 Sharon was started on sunitinib on a 4 week on/2 week off cycle and continued until October 2010. It did help keep things in check but the side effects were extremely hard on Sharon who was still working. So it was decided to try something else that was hoped to be kinder on terms of side effects whilst continuing to be effective against further growths. She went onto pazopanib until May 2011, the side effects hit her hard including a bout of reactive arthritis and reducing the dose merely allowed the mets to flourish. She was tried on Sorafenib and Everolimus as well, though the latter was stopped when her creatanine spiked to very high levels which nearly hospitalized her.
The last option available, at that time, was axitinib and luckily her health cover provider gave the go ahead for this – as they had done for all of the previous treatments. Sharon started on this in December 2012 and continued with it until April 2014. At that time the side effects were getting more pronounced and impacting her quality of life, so the oncologist decided on several weeks break to allow her body to recover. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case and she was not well enough to restart the treatment and so we moved into a pain control and management mode. The oncologist thought she may have weeks to months but that was optimistic and ten days later Sharon passed away peacefully at the age of 55.
We never had any regrets about the treatment that she undertook and tried, some worked better than others but the driving part with each one is that they were chances to restrict or even stop the tumours growing. We always felt that the biggest medicine or treatment to fight the cancer is optimism and a positive attitude. That was the most successful part and I have no doubt that helped Sharon last as long as she did.
If you are a patient then be positive about the treatment and try not to let it get you down. There will be times when things don’t go as desired but you will bounce back especially if you really believe it. Talk to your partner/carer about things so that they are fully aware of how you feel and any signs. Then when you see the oncologist or nurses you can be sure that they are aware of every little detail, however trivial it may seem. Lastly don’t shut them out, they will want to help but may not always know what you need or how to do it. Cancer and it’s treatment is a joint thing, you do the treatment and they will do the worrying and all of the other things related – that’s the way it works.