March is Kidney Cancer Awareness Month

Karen S. Lynch


   Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has proclaimed March 2008 as “Kidney Cancer Awareness Month” due to tireless efforts by Linda Cox from Clinton. Cox lost her youngest daughter, Lori Shew, an apparently healthy 32-year-old mother of four. Diagnosed with kidney cancer just four weeks after the birth of her fourth child, her first daughter she named Alexis.

   Shew underwent surgery five weeks after giving birth to remove a ten pound, watermelon-sized tumor, originally diagnosed as a severe urinary tract infection. Shew lost her heroic battle with numerous treatment attempts, dying from kidney cancer in January of 2005.

   Patients and their families have been working on Congress to proclaim the month of March nationwide to bring awareness of the growing percentage of kidney and renal cancers. March 13 is “World Kidney Day.”

   The latest data from the American Cancer Society shows in 2008 there will be 54,390 new cases of renal cancers (a 3% increase each year) with 13,010 cases that will be terminal. Kidney cancers are most likely to occur over age 40 and inflict nearly twice as many men as women.

   A major problem with kidney and renal cancers is the lack of early and often very vague symptoms until the cancer have metastasizes to other organs. There are no effective treatment options for renal cancers other than early detection, often found accidentally by X-Ray for other symptoms such as blood in the urine or pain.

   Traditional chemotherapy has little effect if the cancer spreads beyond the kidneys and carries a 90 percent mortality rate. Why renal cancers occur is unknown but certain risk factors indicated by scientific studies include smoking, obesity, long-term dialysis, gender, and occupational exposure to substance such as Coke from working in the steel industry, exposure to asbestos or cadmium.

   Larry Lynch, 55 from Knoxville, also diagnosed with a rare and very aggressive form of sarcoma in early October. He underwent surgery the first week of November 2007. Lynch had his left kidney and spleen removed along with an eight pound, volleyball-sized cancerous tumor. He is currently undergoing a trial period of chemotherapy for an extremely rare form of spontaneous cancer, which destroyed his left kidney and spleen. Doctors do not know exactly how to treat Larry’s cancer as there are only 6,000 cases of his type diagnosed each year. Like Lori Shew, Lynch was also a non-smoker, non-drinker, very active healthy adult prior to his cancer diagnosis.

   Another symptom of many forms of cancer is rapid weight loss. Larry Lynch had always been thin but began losing weight rapidly, despite a normal appetite. Because the cancer began on the outside of his left kidney, Lynch did not have symptoms (such as blood in his urine) and only an ache in the pit of his stomach. When Lynch began experiencing severe pain in his ribs, the tumor had already surrounded and displaced all his major organs.

   Drugs used for clinical trials were not an option due to the loss of his spleen, leaving only one treatment option. More research for cancer of all types is a growing need, especially for renal cancers and other rare spontaneous cancers that do not respond well to radiation or chemotherapy. Early detection is crucial but there currently are few warning symptoms or screenings until symptoms develop in the later stages of the disease.

   After having a successful body shop, Carr St. Custom for many years, Lynch merged his business with Speed Street Custom Builds last May. The business closed the same day Lynch was dismissed from St. Francis Hospital in Peoria from his cancer surgery. He has no health insurance and is unable to work.

   A benefit account established for medical and household expenses for Larry Lynch is located at Tompkins State Bank. P.O. Box 299, Knoxville, IL, 61448. A benefit car cruise, planned for April 26, 2008 will be at the Knox County Fairgrounds. The car cruise will include a roasted hog, other food items, live music, raffles and a silent auction for numerous prizes. Raffle tickets for a $200 cash prize are available by calling 309-337-2891 or purchased the day of the cruise fundraiser.