When my father got diagnosed with Clear Cell Renal Carcinoma, I immediately got on Google and researched it. I cannot begin to describe how shocked I was to find out there was a man named, Bob Gallner, who had published a YouTube video to share his battle with the EXACT same cancer that my father had just been diagnosed with. I thought that it was just a coincidence that Bob had the same last name as mine. After talking with my family, I learned he was a cousin of ours. We had just never met! After finding out that we were related, I knew I had to contact him. Bob contacted me almost immediately after I reached out to him and was very open about his battle. Learning about what he went through prepared me for what my father was going to have to go through, and most importantly gave me hope.
I am going to be honest. When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, I lost all faith and hope. I spent hours upon hours praying that my dad would make it through quadruple bypass, which thankfully he did. However, that is when we found out about the 7cm tumor in his chest wall. I prayed the tumor that they discovered was not cancerous, but it was. It seemed like my father could never catch a break. He would recover from one surgery, and either need another one, or I would get a phone call that he was back in the emergency room. Why did this amazing person who was a great father, attorney, brother, husband, and friend need to go through these terrible situations? Maybe it was to show us how STRONG he was. Maybe it was to teach my brother and I one last lesson in life, which ended up being the most important lesson. We learned just how strong each of us are during and after these experiences, and life goes on.
Bob’s story – and his outlook on life – made me realize that people need to be strong and always maintain positivity. Even in the darkest moments, something positive can be gained. (It took me a VERY LONG time to understand that.) Although my dad did not have the same outcome as Bob, there were many other circumstances with his health. If I had to guess, diabetes, kidney failure, gallbladder rupturing (which caused a severe infection), having multiple surgeries in such a short time period, more than likely compromised body. (That is my speculation, as I am not a medical professional.) Most importantly, everyone’s story is different.
I asked Bob if he would be interested in writing a post for this blog, and I was so happy when he emailed me his article! I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to share his story. Bob and I hope that his story will help bring comfort to those either suffering from RCC, or someone caring for a loved one who has RCC.
Please read Bob Gallner’s Story below:
Hi my name is Bob Gallner and I’m a Stage 4 Kidney Cancer Survivor. Being that March is Kidney Cancer Awareness month, I wanted to share my story and give hope to those that may end up going through this journey.I was originally diagnosed with Renal Cell Carcinoma back in January, 2005. I really didn’t think much of it at the time and went through the typical routine of a full nephrectomy of my left kidney. If you really want to get the full story with all the details you can visit a video that me and my son Alex did almost 5 years ago to the day. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Njz37DZ0Q28
Like many other patients, kidney cancer doesn’t present with many systems, I happened to be very lucky when they diagnosed me as I was visiting the doctor for something completely unrelated.
After my first surgery and removal of the kidney, my life went back to normal and it wasn’t until 2 years later that another tumor was found in my abdominal area. I had a second surgery to remove that tumor and once again it was diagnosed as RCC. It was approximately 3 months after this 2nd occurrence when things began to take a turn for the worse. A follow up scan showed that I had another metastasis to my liver in late 2007.
At this point I had gone from Stage 1 to Stage 4 where my life was actually being measured in months versus years. I knew I had to do something and that’s when we began looking at all the treatment options that were available at the time. This was 2007 when a lot of new drugs were just getting approved and coming on to the market.
I am very fortunate because I didn’t realize at the time just how lucky I was to have found a great team of doctors who cared more about me than their own personal practice as well as conventional wisdom. I was presented all of my treatment options with IL-2 being the only form of treatment available that could provide a long term durable response. This is still true today even with all the new drugs on the market. One of the things I tell patients that may be doing research, “When you choose your doctor, you choose your treatment” So, do your research first and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
I began my treatment with IL-2 back in late 2007 in Miami, FL at Mount Sinai. I was very fortunate as I had a very good response to the treatment and I am currently in complete remission. The treatment itself was absolutely brutal. It was one of the reasons my son and I put together the YouTube video so people could hear from an actual survivor but still know what they’re in for.
The hope was that we could help other people that may be going through something similar.
Bringing everything into the present, let me first mention that I have been very fortunate. Most of the recurrences that I have had, have been able to be treated surgically.
I have actually had 4 surgeries now as I had another one in March of 2009, shortly after we did the video. The 3rd one in 2009 was to my liver where there were a few remaining nodules in my liver that the IL-2 didn’t completely knock out and my doctors thought it would be best to surgically remove them. I had a pretty complicated procedure at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland with a very experienced liver surgeon who removed about 20% of of my liver.
I had been in complete remission since then until a scan about 2 years ago showed something new in my right lung. With my history we didn’t take any chances and I had my 4th surgery shortly after where they did a lobectomy of my lung and removed the tumor. It turned out to be RCC again and once again I am in full remission and am very lucky.
One thing that I mention to everyone I speak to is to get the best possible care you can. It’s very important to get multiple opinions and feel that you have good communication with your doctors. It’s also very important that you believe that you can get better. I think a lot of my success is due to my attitude and of course – luck.
I would also recommend checking out the Kidney Cancer website forum that has great information. www.kidneycancer.org
One additional word of encouragement I have for people is that there have been major strides over the past 5 years for Kidney Cancer Patients I attended the annual Kidney Cancer Symposium a few years ago in Chicago and the encouraging thing is how many new drugs are out there now and the increase in patient survivor rates. There’s been many milestones achieved in this area in just the past few years – so there are more treatment options available than ever before.
I always make myself available by phone or email. I am located in Florida, but if you would like to email me any questions or set up a time to talk, I will make the time. You’ll be in my thoughts for sure.