Facing Advanced-Stage Cervical Cancer, Colombian Doctor Travels to U.S. for Immunotherapy at Roswell Park
Colombian physician Renata Schumacher has traveled the world treating patients, but in 2014 she became a patient herself when she learned that she had advanced-stage cervical cancer.
“It was devastating. I never imagined that I could have cancer. It wasn’t even part of my thought process,” says Schumacher, who lives in Bogotá. “I went to all of my routine checks. They were all normal.
“It took me a few days to come to terms with it, especially because after I was diagnosed, they noticed that my left kidney was almost nonfunctional. It seemed as though the cancer had progressed and had attacked the kidney.”
Doctors tried to save as much of Schumacher’s kidney as possible, and afterward she went through radiation and two rounds of chemotherapy. By 2017, she was battling not only the disease but constant pain as well.
“It was horrible,” she recalls. “I lost myself and became pain. It was very difficult to handle.”
Schumacher was losing hope and didn’t know what treatment options to pursue next. But one day she discussed her prognosis with a friend, a cancer researcher who knew about the innovative work being done by Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD, FRCOG, FACOG, Chair of Gynecologic Oncology, Executive Director of the Center for Immunotherapy and Deputy Director of Roswell Park.
Schumacher quickly made an appointment to see Odunsi. As 2017 drew to a close, she flew to Buffalo from her home in Bogotá. Here she began a treatment plan that includes a type of immunotherapy called an immune checkpoint inhibitor (also called a checkpoint blockade), plus a drug that chokes off the blood supply that “feeds” the cancer, plus targeted radiation.
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Now she returns to Roswell Park every three weeks for treatment — and making the journey is no small feat. She has to take at least two flights, and travels between 12 and 20 hours to get here.
She says every trip is worth it, and she’s finally pain-free. “For me, it’s kind of a miracle. I have the second chance in life that I never thought I’d have.” For the first time in a long time, she adds, she feels hopeful.
“I’m profoundly grateful for Dr. Odunsi. I’m very grateful that I have been able to come here to Roswell. People have been extremely nice to me. I have been feeling very welcome. I’m amazed at how I have been treated here. I hope I can take that back home and make a difference like they do here.”
Learn more about the types of immunotherapy offered at Roswell Park.
Editor’s Note: Cancer patient outcomes and experiences may vary, even for those with the same type of cancer. An individual patient’s story should not be used as a prediction of how another patient will respond to treatment. Roswell Park is transparent about the survival rates of our patients as compared to national standards, and provides this information, when available, within the cancer type sections of this website.