Will you help us say thank you – and save lives?
As many of you know, after Chris’s diagnosis we wandered from doctor’s office to doctor’s office, like drunks trying to find a bar still open at three in the morning, seeking a doctor who really understood kidney cancer. We tripped and stumbled along the way, but the best resource for us was reaching out to other kidney cancer patients. Well, that and reading the entrails of chickens. All in all, though, we found other patients to be the most helpful. (Many of you are faithful readers of the blog and continue to share your valuable insights.)
We wanted a doctor who understood “cancer” is not just “cancer” – that cancers are not all the same and that we faced unique challenges with kidney cancer. After initially receiving questionable medical advice, we knew that we needed a renal specialist – and discovered that they aren’t necessarily easy to find. On a more personal level, we wanted a doctor who was aggressive, who would help us to wage a war against cancer, someone who would listen to us and put up with my ceaseless, unrelenting and often annoying questions. In other words, someone who would save Chris rather than poison him as a way to avoid having to put up with me. (It’s a narrow list).
We found such a doctor in Dan George at Duke, who guided us though Chris’s IL-2 treatment. When IL-2 failed, however, we decided to enroll in a clinical trial at Johns Hopkins. We weren’t sure what to expect from our new doctor. After all, it’s hard to change doctors. But Chris and I immediately liked Dr. Hammers. He was young and well-versed in kidney cancer research and excited about the clinical trial. He spent over an hour with us; he answered all of our questions. When I interrupted him, he apologized for talking while I was interrupting him.
And he is remarkably responsive, replying to emails quickly – even when I send worried emails on holidays. Chris thanked him one day for his responsiveness, and Hans seemed genuinely surprised, as if he’d operate any other way. Most important, Dr. Hammers treats us like partners in the fight to save Chris from this cancer. We discuss our options together and come to a consensus together. Not all doctors like to be pestered by patients who have too many questions or, God forbid, opinions of their own.
And I’m very proud to tell you that there is now a Hans Hammers fan club among our fellow kidney cancer patients. In fact, someone who was a new patient posted a question to me the other day:
“Does Dr. Hammers always answer your e-mails immediately? Because he just wrote to me three times – and he responds within a minute every time.”
I was secretly disappointed because I was certain that I was the only person that he responded to so quickly, but I told him that it was what he could expect from Dr. Hammers.
In just a few short years, Dr. Hammers has done a lot for us. But most people don’t know that when he’s not at the hospital with patients, he’s at his lab doing critical research to find clues to combat this unique and deadly disease. That’s where he keeps the mice in which he’s growing Chris’s tumors; it’s where he compiles and studies that data collected from the clinical trial in which we participated and in which hundreds more are still participating. As a young guy, he has a long career ahead of him and we’re excited about that – excited about what it means for us and for everyone with kidney cancer.
As important as the personal relationship we have with Dr. Hammers may be, his research and lab work seeking new treatment options and even a cure one day is equally important. Kidney cancer is not one of the more common cancers like breast and prostate cancer. Millions and millions of dollars – both private and public monies – are invested in finding a cure for these cancers, but what works for breast cancer doesn’t necessarily work for kidney cancer. Traditional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation have little effect on kidney cancer. And, yet, because it is an uncommon cancer, there is no vast movement or national lobbying voice to garner the same kinds of research dollars. Just seven years ago, there was only one FDA-approved treatment for kidney cancer – high dose IL-2. Thanks to advances from researchers like Dr. Hammers, six new drugs have come to market.
Dr. Hammers, like other researchers, must find his own funding to pay for his lab, his supplies, his staff and everything else so critical to his being able to continue his search for a cure. With most of the government’s funding going to one of the better-known cancers, Dr. Hammers and other kidney cancer researchers have to rely more on donations and financial support from the private sector.
Which leads to a Big Ask on our part:
March 30th is Doctor’s Appreciation Day. In honor of Dr. Hammers’ efforts, we’d like to ask you to make a donation to his research at Johns Hopkins. With our support, research in this neglected field can advance to the level of other cancers, and one day help save people like Chris from having to go through what we have endured.
If you’re willing, there are two ways to make donations:
- The easiest way is to make a credit card donation on-line, go to: hopkinsdoctorsday.org. There is a box that allows you to designate your contribution to the work of a particular physician. In the box, please type: Dr. Hans Hammers to ensure the donation goes to his kidney cancer research. There is also a box where you can say that the donation is in tribute to Chris. (They ask for Chris’s address, but don’t worry about that.) Heck, they even have space where you can write a personal note to Dr. Hammers, something like: “Thanks for continuing to put up with Dena and all of her annoying questions.”
- Or, if you’d feel more comfortable sending us a check that we can bundle with others and give to Johns Hopkins, you can make your tax deductible contribution out to: Johns Hopkins. Mail it to us at:
Chris and Dena Battle
1106 Dartmouth Rd.
Alexandria VA 22314
When Chris was diagnosed in March of 2009 with metastatic renal cell carcinoma he was told he had two years to live. That was four years ago. We are blessed by God and the critical research done by doctors like Hans Hammers to have enjoyed life beyond such predictions. We pray that we will have more years to come and that new research offers new treatment options to us and kidney cancer patients around the world.