Before cancer I was one of those annoying people who never got sick. When my left arm started hurting in August 2014 I thought it might be tennis elbow, even though I don’t play tennis. After a few weeks I finally got an X-ray and it showed a six inch tumor inside my left humerus. As it turned out, I had kidney cancer and it had spread everywhere. I was stunned.

Since then I’ve had radiation on some larger tumors (chemo doesn’t work on kidney cancer), different immunotherapy drugs, and participated in drug trials. I’ve had a rod inserted in my left humerus, a rod in my left femur, my left shoulder and arm amputated, and finally a rod in my right humerus. At this point, I’m almost the bionic woman! Kidney cancer is relatively rare, representing only 3% of all cancers. The survival rate is tied to how long it takes to work through the short list of available treatments and, unfortunately, that’s where I was last January.

I had attended the Believe Big dinner event a few years ago and had heard about mistletoe. Since my last experimental drug had given me a heart attack, I thought the time had finally come for me to try an alternative option. I contacted a patient advocate at Believe Big (Patty) and she was so fantastic! She provided a variety of resources and ways that Believe Big could help. One option was Namaste Health Center in Colorado where I could have mistletoe IV therapy, as well as other treatments. Some of these were Naturopathic medicine, Chinese medicine, Ortho-Bionomy, and nutrition therapy. With the help of a Believe Big grant and a Go Fund Me campaign I was able to attend Namaste Health Center for two weeks this past March.

Since my return, I’ve continued the mistletoe treatments, in combination with Opdivo (immunotherapy). Three times a week a family member gives me a mistletoe injection and monthly I get an Opdivo IV at Johns Hopkins. I’ve had several CAT scans since March and both showed the tumor in my kidney shrinking, while other tumors are stable or a little smaller. For me this is very encouraging since no other treatment has ever shrunk any of my tumors!

I’m so grateful that Believe Big was there to provide the information and help that has started me on this mistletoe journey. I’m very hopeful about where this will go and for now I’m appreciating every day with my family and friends.