Denny Partosa Bladder cancer patient
- Diagnosed with bladder cancer in January 2016 after a misdiagnosis outside of SCCA
- Received chemotherapy and checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy
My name is Redentor “Denny” Partosa. I am 66 years old and live in Auburn, about 30 miles south of Seattle. I was first diagnosed with cancer in January 2016.
Symptoms and a misdiagnosis
My first symptom occurred in December 2015. I was at my local rehab center to recover from a heart attack that occurred during the prior summer when I noticed blood in my urine. I mentioned this to my nurse; she thought it was caused by the blood-thinning medicine and aspirin I was prescribed after my heart attack. A month later, I started experiencing pain in my left side. I made an appointment right away with a urologist, who did X-rays and a CAT scan and discovered a mass on my left kidney. I was diagnosed with kidney cancer and my urologist recommended surgery to remove the kidney.
But when I saw a surgeon at a hospital close to home, he questioned the mass. The kidney cancer was a misdiagnosis: A biopsy determined that I had bladder cancer.
Second opinion at SCCA
I sought out a second opinion with Heather Cheng, MD, PhD, a medical oncologist at SCCA. X-rays of my chest were taken to find out whether the cancer had spread; unfortunately, it had spread to my lungs. I was also developing a bump on my right inner thigh. So I had two additional biopsies: one in my lung and the other on my thigh. They were also diagnosed as bladder cancer.
My wife suggested we meet an oncologist at a clinic closer to our home, but I liked Dr. Cheng and wanted her to treat me. I have a hard time warming up to people, and Dr. Cheng was a good fit. My wife and I trusted her. Despite the hour-long drive, we decided that I would receive treatment at SCCA because of its reputation. I’d heard SCCA is one of the top cancer treatment clinics, and the people here are special: They really take care of their patients.
Immunotherapy changed everything
My first treatment was chemotherapy for six months. By the end of the treatment, I had no energy and had neuropathy — I couldn’t walk or use my hands and I had lots of swelling. I also lost 30 pounds and my hair from the chemo. During my “break” in August 2016, I went to the Philippines for a couple of weeks. It was wonderful to be home with my family.
When I returned after a month, I started an immunotherapy treatment called atezolizumab, a checkpoint inhibitor drug. What a change from the chemo! The treatment is once every three weeks (instead of two times every three weeks for the chemo treatment) and only takes about an hour to complete. I still have energy and my appetite. The immunotherapy treatment has also reduced the mass to approximately half the size and the bump on my inner thigh is completely gone. It’s like normal skin on my thigh now.
Continuing everyday life
Chemo was the hardest part of my treatment, but now it’s like I’m not even sick. I’m thankful to be back to a normal life again.
Since I am retired, I have quite a bit of time on my hands. To stay busy, I go on Facebook to keep up with friends and family. I also enjoy gardening and fixing cars. Since I was very young, I’ve been playing pool. I’m currently in three pool leagues and wouldn’t mind joining more. My teammates and competitors respect my pool skills. I have been on teams that have made it to nationals — one in Tennessee and the other in Las Vegas. My goal is to get to the national tournament again soon.
In the summer, my passion is the property in Mt. Vernon that my daughter owns. It is therapeutic. I can fish, row in my little boat or canoe and be with my wife, two daughters, their spouses and my three grandchildren. The advice I would give other cancer patients is to stay positive and to surround yourself with family and friends.