After suffering from severe flank pain all summer, Matty McClain decided to visit his general practitioner in late 2018. Blood tests results seemed normal, but when Matty examined his results more closely online, he noticed that his creatinine had gone from less than .99 milligrams/deciliters (mg/dL)* to 1.36mgl/dL and his estimated glomerular filtration rate from over 90 millimeters/minute (mL/min)* to 62 (mL/min) in under four months.
“I mentioned this to my doctor who said, ‘Yeah, that is strange’,” Matty said.
His doctor ordered a follow-up ultrasound, which showed that Matty had masses on both kidneys. A CT scan followed, which showed that the mass on the left kidney was seven cm and the mass on the right kidney was 6 cm.
“I think it’s important to be your own advocate, not just in regard to cancer but in general,” Matty said. “If I hadn’t questioned my initial lab results, who know how long it would have been until my cancer was diagnosed.”
Since he lived in a rural town, a radiologist recommended that Matty drive to either Reno, Nevada or Los Angeles, California to see a nephrologist or urologist as soon as possible. Matty’s sister-in-law, who is a chemotherapy nurse, was able to connect Matty with an oncologist in California.
There Matty underwent a battery of tests. He had another CT, a brain scan, and a bone scan. Luckily, no other tumors or lesions were found elsewhere in his body.
“I was also relieved that the tumor over my right kidney was most likely a myolipoma (a rare benign tumor). However, the tumor on my left kidney appeared to be cancer,” Matty said. The tumor extended out to his renal vein and into Matty’s interior vena cava. There also appeared to be a second tumor on Matty’s left adrenal gland.
The next step was surgery in January 2019 to remove both tumors and thrombus as well as his left kidney and adrenal gland.
“The most difficult thing was accepting my stage IV/grade diagnosis,” Matty said, about finding out that his cancer was Stage IV grade 4 renal cell carcinoma.
But his remaining kidney wasn’t fully functional yet. Matty began retaining fluid after surgery, gaining nearly 40 pounds of fluid in two days. Dialysis helped his kidney function stabilize. His surgery also caused infections that landed Matty in the hospital for an additional 20 days.
Matty’s support system was there throughout the journey.
“I would not be where I am today without [my wife]. She was by my side every step of the way,” Matty said.
His sister and brother-in-law were also very supportive, sharing their home with Matty and his wife when they had to pull up stakes and relocate from the mountains to Los Angeles for five months.
“They took us into their home and made us feel loved and welcomed. I will never be able to repay their kindness,” he said.
Making sure he was informed about kidney cancer from reliable sources was also critical.
“While it’s important and natural to want to educate yourself on your disease, the internet can be a really scary place,” Matty said, crediting websites like the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and KCCure.org and KidneyCancer.org for helping him have well-informed discussions with his care team.
Matty is just over one and half years with no evidence of disease (NED).
“Sometimes it’s hard- I worry if I will relapse, but I try and just focus on the present,” Matty said. “I am hoping to celebrate two years NED this January. In the meantime, I am back to snowboarding, bike riding, and playing golf.”