Cancer. The dreaded C word. We all know someone who has, had, or has overcome cancer. As a survivor myself, I choose to always believe that those diagnosed, CAN-SURvive. And such is the case with Larry Gabriel, an ophthalmologist and graduate of John Hopkins School of Medicine, who endured years of kidney cancer treatments from prestigious organizations such as John Hopkins, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and Cleveland Clinic. When chemotherapy was no longer an option, Larry was referred to explore genomic sequencing as a method to determine whether compromised DNA in his genes could be treated to overcome the kidney cancer and the new mass spreading through his large intestine.
This type of DNA testing was his last resort. With one kidney left, outcomes for Larry appeared bleak. Test results from the Intermountain Healthcare Precision Genomics Core Laboratory in St. George, Utah identified five different genes in his body that could possibly be enabling the cancer. One of them was the BRACA1 gene which often causes breast cancer in women. Reviewing his family history, Larry discovered that a grandmother had passed from ovarian cancer and an aunt from breast cancer. It seemed that the gene had been acquired and passed through generations, and could be the cancer culprit. Larry’s oncologist chose to treat the gene, and for the first time in fifteen years his hemoglobin hematocrit level went back to normal.
Fighting the stubborn C for so many years was not only physically draining, it also took an emotional toll. The pain and guilt he felt for putting his family through the emotions of his diagnosis and treatment as unbearable as the physical pain. Larry remembers his teenage daughter (at the time) weeping over his first diagnosis. “Cancer makes good relationships great, and unsteady relationships bad,” Larry commented. I think many can relate, as the hardships that come with cancer can lead to unchartered territories for all involved.
Larry often describes his battle with cancer using the analogy of a fighter named Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini who tangoed an epic toe-to-toe fourteen rounds in the ring with a South Korean fighter. Larry always knew he would endure to the end of his rounds with cancer, he just never knew if he would be “Boom Boom” and win it all, or be the Korean fighter who passed before his time. It’s not a pretty story, yet it is Larry’s story, and he feel blessed to have come through it as the champion.
The emotions tied to cancer include everything from denial to acceptance, and loss to love. After spending more than a decade in his battle, Larry was given a new lease on life. His sense of urgency to live, laugh, and enjoy the small things is much different today, and time spent with loved ones and doing what means the most to him is his priority.
Larry’s life was forever changed when his team of doctors started treating a faulty gene, versus a type of cancer. “Genomic sequencing is brilliant, it was my silver bullet,” expressed Larry. After multiple rounds of chemo, radiation, and surgeries, genomic testing is what saved his life. Larry believes it could be the pathway for many facing cancer.
“With cancer there are hundreds of people along the way that make a difference. Everyone that helps and cares, from the random smile from a stranger to family. Because of Intermountain Healthcare, I get to pass on the random acts of kindness now,” Larry said in gratitude.
His story is one of many. Genomic sequencing could change the future of how cancer is treated. Adding a DNA testing at the beginning of diagnosis could ultimately enhance the course of treatment. Barriers still exist. More research is necessary before this treatment becomes a standardized practice. Larry’s oncologist, Dr. Lincoln Nadauld, believed it was the path towards his patient’s health. For Larry, it was a resource never explored or conversed about, and it was his game changer, as he is now cancer-free.
***The same technology used to treat Larry is available to late stage cancer patients throughout the nation. A physician must order The ICG100™ test. Information Kit to share with your oncologist, can be found at precisioncancer.org/personal.
Originally published at medium.com