International Clinical Trials Day: Clinical Trial Patient is Thankful for the Opportunity
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
International Clinical Trials Day: Participant is Thankful for the Opportunity
Linda Soltys, clinical trial participant since 2018
As a longtime financial advisor, Calgarian Linda Soltys was in the business of helping her clients prepare prudently for their future retirement, and doing so for herself and her husband. She was careful to eat well, exercise, and manage her weight. Little did she foresee a diagnosis of kidney cancer in 2009.
“No one wants to hear that diagnosis!” she remembers. “I wasn’t happy about it but at the same time not gravely concerned. The cancer was confined to one kidney, so in a single operation my kidney would be removed, and so would my cancer.”
Almost four years later, spots on her remaining kidney appeared in a routine CT scan. This time, she felt real disappointment and anxiety, afraid she couldn’t survive without any kidneys.
“How do you plan a coping strategy if you don’t know what you’re coping with?” she says. “After CT scans, MRIs and many other tests, they told me I could have dialysis. I felt relief; I was going to have the same surgery that I’d already had to remove a kidney, and would not lose my life.”
What followed for the next two years was a difficult and exhausting routine of daily dialysis, in which a machine mechanically filtered her blood to remove waste products ordinarily processed by the kidneys.
“I was attached to the machine for up to 12 hours each day,” she says. “My husband and I didn’t go out much, we could plan only brief trips. I had a very short list of foods to eat. Really though, survival is my mindset: my favourite saying is ‘be grateful for what you have, instead of wanting something that other people have.’”
As it turned out, someone’s willingness to give Linda what they had - and she desperately needed - launched the next chapter of her story. Her friend and neighbour – who Linda calls her “angel on earth” volunteered to be a living kidney donor. In January 2015, Linda had her kidney transplant.
Linda knew she would continue to be monitored for spreading kidney cancer, even though her own kidneys had been removed. In 2018, she learned that she qualified for an international clinical trial at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, to test the effectiveness of a new medication for patients who had already undergone one round of conventional treatment.
She recalls, “It was a wonderful opportunity! I knew my cancer wouldn’t be eliminated, but this was something that could keep it from spreading further. Now I get scanned more often than I used to be, they’re on top of my blood work and overall health. I also get to help the doctors as they look for better outcomes, and a better quality of life for patients like me.”
The clinical trial is running in 93 different sites around the world, and the treatment is being reviewed as a possible standard of care for future patients. Linda Soltys is delighted that she may be contributing to the wellbeing of others facing cancer.
“I feel proud of myself that I’ve done it, and happy that it may give someone else some hope and the same wonderful results that I’ve had. I’ve been on the trial more than 18 months; my cancer is much reduced, I’m less tired, and I’ve been able to spend time with my grandchildren. I’d encourage anyone who is offered the chance to participate in a clinical trial, to do so!”