TAMPA - Linda Simpson is taking one day at a time after being diagnosed with kidney cancer back in May of 2009. Scheduled for a routine colonoscopy, doctors were alarmed by her enlarged abdomen, ordered tests and a tumor was picked up.
She was referred to Doctor Philippe Spiess.
“When Dr. Spiess walked in, I knew if anything happened to me I was going to have the best doctor in the world operate on me. The tumor was growing out of my kidney and then he brought out this thing from Star Wars to take out the kidney, the tumor and go into my intestines to clear up the adhesions," Simpson said.
Doctor Spiess specializes in treating kidney cancer patients. Linda was a perfect candidate for one of the new surgical treatments performed at The Moffitt Cancer Center.
“She had a small little renal tumor in her kidney and all the imaging showed, so we discussed the various options available to her including robotic surgery."
The surgery was a success, and now this proud grandma to six grand-kids is cancer free. Unrelated to the cancer, she also had to have spine surgery and now wears a brace, but that doesn't stop this 75-year-old athlete!
“I can't hold my neck up very long, so in my triathlons I don't swim with anything. I’m allowed to do the elementary back stroke and frog kick and I'm training now in fins."
Doctor Spiess calls Linda a "role model" patient with her determination and positive attitude. She's come a long way, and so has research, when it comes to treating patients diagnosed with kidney cancer.
“About five or seven years ago there were essentially two drugs we could offer them, so very limited availability of drugs that were effective. Based on some research developed, some specific inhibitors of these tumors like a tree cut them off at the roots and that's where targeted agents came in to play," Spiess said.
Today, he says there are currently five drugs that are FDA approved for the management of kidney cancer and there are about 15 in the pipeline.
“The horizon looks much more promising for patients with advanced kidney cancer than it ever has," Dr. Spiess says.
As for Linda, she exercises daily and meets with Dr. Spiess every six months for blood tests. She has a message for anyone going through tough times in life.
“Life is very precious. You don't see that. Change your way of thinking. Try to be positive. Try to think of what you can do and not what you can't do. I thank God for each day."
And a message for the man she credits for saving her life?
“Thank you for knowing so much. I'm going to swim now."
Kidney cancer is on the rise by about 2 to 3 percent. Many times patients have no warning signs. Experts say many times tumors are actually picked up on imaging for stomach pain or discomfort.
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Two-year-old Evan Ranieri will be getting a donated kidney Wednesday. His parents hope his journey will inspire others to donate organs to children who have a whole lifetime still ahead of them.