Dr. Quint Jardine, 66, is currently summering in North Carolina at 4,200 feet, a month into his retirement and anticipating his next round of golf.
It’s a far cry from where he was in January 2018, when a surprise stage 3b clear cell renal cell carcinoma (RCC) diagnosis sent him straight to surgery to remove a 13 cm kidney tumor that was creeping into the vena cava halfway to his liver.
Prior to his diagnosis, Jardine was completely asymptomatic. Though he hadn’t delivered babies in a decade, Jardine maintained a gynecology practice and ran a separate weight-loss clinic too. Jardine is also an avid exerciser who, just days prior to his diagnosis, was at the gym doing 200lb leg presses.
“I was in the bathroom [the next morning] and I cussed,” he said.
The outburst was due to gross hematuria – bloody urine that looked, Jardine said, like a mix of merlot wine and beer.
Nearby, his wife, a lawyer, offered some practical advice.
“It’s cancer till proven otherwise,” she said. “Doctor, I hope you get it checked out.”
Through his diagnosis, surgery, and later when he enrolled in a clinical trial at Tulane University, Jardine was able to tap knowledgeable friends to help him navigate the process more nimbly than the average person.
“I’m blessed as a physician with a support group of fellow physicians,” Jardine said.
Besides their counsel, Jardine was able to get scans locally near his home in Mobile, Alabama and review his X-rays in the hospital with his friends. During his clinical trial appointments for treatments and checkups – a 2-hour drive that would often require overnight stays in New Orleans – he’d review his scans with residents there prior to meeting with his doctor.
Even so, the transition from provider to patient was unnerving, both for the lack of control and because of the complexity of the medical system.
This was made very evident during the clinical trial enrollment process.
“For years nothing has ever worked with RCC but immunotherapy was an incredible breakthrough that changed the game plan and survival rates,” Jardine said. “I still had enough medical background to know this trial was a tremendous opportunity for me. Not doing anything wasn’t a choice when I could be dead in 5 years. Yet reading the informed consent forms – even as a physician – it was very daunting. I’m thinking, I’m signing away a lot.”
While Jardine didn’t know for sure if he was getting the trial drug – an immunotherapy called atezolizumab – or a placebo, some signs and reactions (fatigue, myositis, colitis, a bright pink reaction on a cancerous bit of forearm skin) seemed to indicate he was on active treatment.
Jardine went to Tulane every 3 weeks over 12 months for immunotherapy infusions. He had CT scans every 3 months over 3 years. His most recent scans this past April – 2 years after completing immunotherapy as adjuvant treatment – were negative.
Jardine will continue with follow up CT scans and physician visits every 6 months.
“I don’t know what the future holds, but I feel more optimistic that something else may be our undoing,” he said.
Jardine said he’s back to his normal activity levels, which include golf, cycling, and regular swims. He has joined the board of the Alabama Kidney Foundation and his hopeful that his kidney cancer will stay in remission as he and his wife embark upon retirement.