Overcoming the Odds: Steven's Journey with Stage IV RCC - Episode 6
Karl J. D’Silva, M.D.: One thing we always talk about is support network in renal cell cancer. I always talk to you, whether there are any health-oriented resources that can be available for our patient. I always tell you the jackpot of all information is from the government-sponsored resources such as cancer.gov, National Institutes of Health. We definitely see that this website provides high-quality accuracy and usefulness for patients like you, how they can improve their health and maintain their quality of life. As I said to you one day, we have a team of people, so whenever you walk into our cancer center, we want to have this multidisciplinary approach. Today, cancer is treated as a team sport, not as an individual sport. We’ve got financial counselors, social worker, even our therapist and nurse practitioner. What was your feeling at that time when you were getting so many calls from so many different people from our cancer center?
Steven Gallant: Not only that, I sought out even more information. Right from the beginning with Dr. Harras Zaid M.D., who was my surgeon, I made sure to speak at length with him. And any nurse, I talk to all the nurses because they’re hands-on, so they’re always good. I had the inpatient care. I had a palliative care nurse who was always at my house, my sister’s house, I should say. I was lucky because I had a lot of help. My sister and brother-in-law especially, they were there from the beginning. My sister cooked for me three times a day. I was lucky because they lived upstairs from a business. They had a business downstairs, so they were downstairs, I was upstairs, and she would come up and cook for her husband anyway. So she’d take care of me.
And a nurse would come visit me every week. We called your office many times. The nurse would always call and ask to make sure because there were always medication changes because we had to tweak the stomach medicine every week almost. Because the medicine, everybody knows how intrusive it is to the body. So you just hope that it does its job before it does its job on your whole body, right? But the side effect was my stomach. I was very lucky because I had heard about all the other side effects from cancer patients.
Karl J. D’Silva, M.D.: Wow, yes, without a doubt.
Steven Gallant: I really didn’t have many. It was the stomach issue and digestive system. So I was tweaking and changing my medication for the stomach all the time. There was always stomach pain, and I used tramadol as a painkiller for that, which is very mild. I didn’t want anything to affect the way I thought, so even after surgery when I woke up, I said, no, I’m not doing any of those painkillers because I wanted to be able to read and stuff. And you were close. Peabody is very close to where I live, so I would always go over and talk. It’s funny because I used to go in and visit the financial aid office woman all the time and talk to her. I don’t know if you guys knew that.
Karl J. D’Silva, M.D.: No.
Steven Gallant: I used to sit with her just to say hi.
Karl J. D’Silva, M.D.: Yes.
Steven Gallant: I’m a talker as you can tell. I don’t have a problem talking wherever I go. And it’s funny because now I even talk more because I know how important this story is to get out to the people. So, wherever I go, I just tell people, I give little hints that something’s up and they’d be like, “What do you mean?” Then I’ll get into it and I’ll explain to them what happened because it’s my story, but it’s an important story that people should know about.
Karl J. D’Silva, M.D.: Absolutely. You had such an aggressive cancer and you definitely responded so beautifully. I think that’s an important aspect.
Steven Gallant: I had a lot of help. Thank you so much because if it wasn’t for you, I don’t think I’d be here right now.
Karl J. D’Silva, M.D.: I think we have good medications today so that’s why we can offer it to our patients. Steven, one thing always comes to my mind is, and a lot of patients ask me, is complementary medicine, is it helpful in patients like you. I think I remember talking to you about speaking to our social worker, the therapist, as well as an acupuncturist. We have this massage therapy taking place in our cancer services, and I think those are a really nice adjunct to your treatment option. Did you use any of the services?
Steven Gallant: I have an outside chiropractor service that I have always gone to; I’ve been going to chiropractors since the 1970s. I had two herniated discs, so I’m a firm believer in that and massage therapy, and I have done acupuncture in the past but I didn’t this time. I stayed with meditation, of course all of the work that we did, and my chiropractor. By the way, there’s a lot to be said about meditation, about understanding that you do have control of your body, and your body will follow the way you think. If you think positive and you think your body to heal, it will actually follow suit. So from day one, I never had a victim mentality like why me or poor me. Talking to other doctors made me smile because they would always frown. I watched you close when I first met you, too, and we really didn’t get into that part yet. That was stuff we talked about later about how I am as a person.
Karl J. D’Silva, M.D.: Yes.
Steven Gallant: But the initial team of doctors, I could see the frown on their faces, and tried to explain to them about how I was spiritually and that it was very important to me. And being positive is huge on the outcome of anything to do with the physical body.
Karl J. D’Silva, M.D.: Wow. So outside of our clinic, who played a role in supporting you during this treatment process?
Steven Gallant: The outpatient service. Through Lahey Clinic they had the nurses come in every week for me.
Karl J. D’Silva, M.D.: OK, the VNA [Visiting Nurse Association] services, yes. That’s nice. And plus from your family.
Steven Gallant: Yes. My sister had all the care stuff at her home because my mom died at home with my sister. We had all the tools necessary, so when I got sick, everything was there, the chairs, the walker, the arm cuff for blood pressure. She had everything in order too. It was amazing. I’ll tell you something, being alone, it easily could have gone the other way. But I was surrounded by so many people who were into helping me, that gave me confidence and kept me positive. It helped me a lot.
Karl J. D’Silva, M.D.: That’s good because it was important to keep that overall communication about your diagnosis and treatment with you as well as your family members. That’s what we aim for in the success of our treatment today.
Transcript Edited for Clarity