Michael Kasper’s Personal Storyby Staff on November 16, 2010
My name is Michael Kasper and I live in Eastern Pennsylvania with my wife and two teenage sons. Prior to my diagnosis at age 58 I had no medical issues, never smoked, not overweight, never having been hospitalized, nor exposure to suspect chemicals. After my annual physicals each year, I would walk out of the doctor’s office with a “big head” with the news of another great physical. Given the fact that my dad passed away at 91 and my mother lived to be 100; I assumed myself “untouchable”.
Approximately 8 months before my diagnosis I felt a “lump” on my left side, I went to my doctor for his opinion. (I should add that I had no pain, no passing of blood or any other signs.) He typically is very pro active regarding certain symptoms, however he believed this mass was a lypoma, a mass of fatty tissue. Nonetheless, he suggested consulting with a surgeon, who upon examining my side agreed with my general practitioner’s assumption. In retrospect, no diagnostic tools were used, such as a CT scan, etc. Of course, they told me what I wanted to hear, that it was nothing to be concerned about.
After a couple of months I realized that this “thing” would not go away by itself; I returned to the GP’s office, he asked if “I wanted it out”, and reluctantly I said yes. I went back to the surgeon and he seemed a bit more concerned and ordered a CT scan. The day after the scan he called and told me he saw “something that concerned him” and suggested coming into the office the following day. That’s when the proverbial other shoe dropped. The scan showed the mass on my side and also a mass on my left kidney! He told me he suspected that it was kidney cancer and the mass on my side was metastasized from the original site, meaning stage IV cancer. We all know the feelings that flood your mind! Fortunately my wife was with me to help with the news.
The surgeon suggested that since the tumor was attached to my chest cavity wall, he thought a thoracic surgeon would be the best one for the removal. He recommended a surgeon at Fox Chase Cancer Hospital in Philadelphia. (I have incredible esteem for the original surgeon, since he recognized the limits of his talents and suggested another doctor.)
A thoracic surgeon removed the mass on my chest cavity wall and then a kidney surgeon removed the mass on the kidney. I knew nothing of kidney cancer and thought all cancers were the same. I assumed radiation and chemotherapy were to follow surgery! Much too my amazement, I was told there was no effective treatment for kidney cancer; and there was only one FDA approved drug, the highly toxic Interleukin-2, which has a very limited success record. Since the margins from the surgery were clear, further treatment was not recommended. Being skeptical of this information, we consulted two other kidney cancer specialists and they confirmed the initial news.
I will never have the confidence to say I am cancer free, since kidney cancer can recur at any time. Nonetheless, I am extremely blessed that God has allowed me a NED (no evidence of disease) status.
Since kidney cancer is often called the silent killer, we desperately need “tests” to help determine early diagnosis. As equally important we need research to help find cures for this consuming disease. One last point, I have learned that we must be our own advocate and continually pursue all issues in determining our necessary treatments. As in my situation, had I left the chest cavity wall mass go without treatment — I suppose I would not be writing this little story.
Best wishes to all, and praying for a cure to this dreadful disease!