Peggy Zuckerman is a long-time kidney cancer patient and advocate from Long Beach, California. We spoke about her passion for supporting kidney cancer and fellow patients.
How long have you been working with the KCA and what motivated you to get involved?
I have been working on the patient committee for about one year, but have been served by the KCA as a patient in a number of ways since 2004…just about one month after my own diagnosis. My first live kidney cancer patient group was in the greater LA area, where I heard my first lectures about the new targeted therapies coming into clinical use. Along with dozens of other patients who had heard a review of a new drug, I understood very little of it. The lecture was typical of the reporting that physicians use, but overwhelmingly complex for patients. With a few other patients, we took on the challenge of trying to clarify this trial for one another and created a very small patient-to-patient support group.
With that help and my background as a teacher, I realized that I could have made that lecture comprehensible and therefore, valuable to other patients. Within about six months of that first lecture, I also received treatment that saved my life. Alive, grateful, and motivated to help others, I began studying everything I could about kidney cancer, and have continued to do so since that time.
With that, I became more involved in the KCA meetings in LA and traveled where possible to participate in other such meetings. Since so few patients could attend such meetings, and with limited access to the written data from those meetings, I started a simple blog to share those first few lectures.
How do you hope to see the KCA grow?
I would like to see the KCA continue to expand its support to patients as they are uniquely positioned to bring the work of the researchers to patients and through them, to their local and less-experienced community oncologists. Since I read both the research and reports from patients in treatment, I am aware of a huge gap. An example is a recent patient who was told her post-surgery biopsy did not determine which kidney cancer she had, nor could they determine the grade of her tumor. Moreover, she was advised that it did not matter, as the treatment would be the same for any kidney cancer. To give patients a good understanding of their cancer, their individual options, the resources that might be used in treatment would change the grim statistics quickly. The KCA is part of that and can meet that challenge in the coming years.
What are you excited to bring to the organization?
I am excited to bring my own knowledge of kidney cancer, of the options that do exist, and those that are on the horizon to the KCA and its patient and physician partners. My range of advocacy has led me to to write patient reviews of grant applications, to lobby for increasing funds, and to understand the opportunities to shared resources, including trial data, so as to improve the options for patients.
What is your favorite travel destination and why?
In the last 10 years I have most often traveled to Germany and Austria to help with two of my grandchildren, whose parents are opera singers in Europe. My own German skills have been helpful as they settled in Europe with two young children, and have given me the joy of seeing the grandkids grow and move in this new and ever-smaller world. I would love to see more of Europe, especially France, and with that, the chance to practice a bit of my feeble French.
What do you like to do in your free time?
When I am not reading about kidney cancer and patient advocacy in general, I read history. Of late, I have taken a special interest in the background of my own grandparents, pioneers/homesteaders in western North Dakota at the turn of the 20th century. How these people built communities, with school, hospitals, churches, and commerce on the prairie, long before access to electricity and motors, will always intrigue me! And we complain about driving across town or not finding a special brand of cereal.