Joyce Garner Tackles RMC With Faith & Determination

  • July 20, 2020

Joyce was diagnosed with renal medullary carcinoma (RMC) at the age of 43. She lives in North Carolina with her son, DJ and daughter, Nevaeh. Joyce continues to have a positive outlook on life and is determined to beat this beast called RMC. As she states at the end of her story, “cancer has shown up on the wrong doorstep”.

I began to have symptoms of kidney stones between April/June 2019. I had extreme pain, fever, nausea, fatigue, and constant urination. I went to my doctor and had an x-ray done. I was told that I had kidney stones in both kidneys and a large one in my right kidney. I was sent home and was instructed to pass the stones on my own and follow up. After about two weeks, I began to have more pain and blood in my urine. I hadn’t noticed if I had passed any stones or not, but the blood in my urine scared me very much. I began to look up my symptoms, as I was puzzled. I was sent to an urologist in July for a cystoscopy and the results revealed abnormal cells but not bladder cancer. In August, my physician ordered a urogram because the symptoms that I had became increasingly worst.  After the urogram, I was told, there was nothing of significance seen and there is no need to be concerned. (I didn’t believe them). I was not getting any better and had to stop working.

I must add, five years ago, I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease characterized by dryness of the mouth & eyes and Lupus which is an inflammatory disease caused when the immune system attacks its own tissue. The pain, body fatigue, blood in my urine and weight loss seemed to be getting worse each day.

In October, I decided to go to another doctor at a different hospital and the outcome was the same; cystoscopy, urine test and review of past medical history.  I was instructed to go to the pain clinic for pain control because there was not anything that they could do. I was very upset and didn’t know what to do.

October 29th, I went to the ER because of the extreme pain and difficulty trying to walk.  A CT scan without contrast, lab work, and urine test was ordered. I was informed that I was constipated and given instructions to take Miralax, medication for pain and then discharged from the hospital.

The following week on November 7th, I was in extreme pain again and this time, I collapsed to the floor and couldn’t walk at all. My daughter called EMS and I was rushed to the hospital. I was given pain meds to calm me down in the ambulance. When I arrived at the hospital, I was given more pain medication because I was in excruciating pain. Once the pain was under control, they did a CT scan with contrast, lab work, urine test and a full exam. I was in so much pain after the CT scan that I thought I was going to die. The doctor came in to tell me that someone from Urology was going to come in and speak to me about the results of the scan. Instead, the Oncologist walked in my room and I was a little taken back. I was told that I had a tumor in my right kidney and I need to see the Oncology doctor ASAP!!!!!!

November 7, 2019, my family and my life changed instantly. I knew things would start happening very quickly and it did. After numerous tests, lab work, biopsy and follow up visits, it was confirmed on December 2nd that I had RMC.

I had never heard of RMC and I knew I needed to research this diagnosis. I became so depressed and sad because I have two amazing children and all I could think about was them. I pushed forward and began treatment December 19th.

I completed 3 cycles of chemotherapy and the last one was on January 30th. I had another CT scan done in February and at that time I was told that the treatment was not working and I should go to Houston, Texas to get treatment because UNC could not help me.

I did my research about MD Anderson Cancer Center and I knew that I needed to get to Houston and be prepared to stay if I needed to. For three months (January 30th– March 19th), I went without treatment. I will speak on that later. Financially, I did not have enough money to travel to Houston, so I created a GoFundMe page asking family for help.

I was scheduled to go to Houston March 13th right at the beginning of COVID-19 Pandemic. Despite everything that was going on, we safely made it to Houston. My appointment with Dr. Msaouel was not as I had expected. I was told that I didn’t meet the criteria for the clinical trial because I have interstitial lung disease, a group of disorders that cause progressive scarring of lung tissue. This was the downside for me.  Dr. Msaouel informed me that because of the pandemic, it would be best to go back to North Carolina as soon as possible and get started on a treatment plan that he recommended.

On March 17th, I was back home and ready to move forward with treatment. Unfortunately, on March 18th the CT scans revealed that the cancer had progressed and was now in my lungs and stomach.  On March 19th., I was placed on a 6-week cycle of chemotherapy every two weeks. I literally just finished on May 30th. I’m scheduled for new scans on June 10th. At the end of the 3rd cycle, the CT scan showed that the tumors were stable and there was improvement in certain areas of the lungs.

I’m very optimistic about the next chapter in my life.  Cancer has shown up on the wrong doorstep. “It can not live here……….EVICTION IN MOTION. Lol, I’m trusting God because I know he can do all things.  I’m definitely pushing to get healed mentally and physically, so that I can educate others about RMC.