Patient Story - Jean Fitzer

Kidney cancer
She’s been on the clinical trial with Opdivo since 2013 and continues to do well.

At 93 years young, Jean continues to set big goals.

“I’ve been able to accomplish all my goals so far, so I guess I’ll just keep making them,” Jean Fitzer shares with a smile. But she wasn’t always so sure.

When Jean was first diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2008, she wondered if she’d still be enjoying the big moments she knew were ahead for her family. Her primary care physician in Dunkirk, NY gave her two choices—she could go to a regional medical center or Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Jean thought the choice was easy, “I’d heard how good the doctors were at Roswell Park and I knew that was the place for me to go—even though that meant driving almost an hour.”

But hearing she’d be in good hands didn’t prepare her for the experience of being treated at  Roswell Park—in fact, it surprised her. “Everyone was so helpful and positive, they gave us hope. When you get cancer you don’t think everyone will be that positive about what you can expect.” Under the care of Dr. Saby George, and with the goal of getting back to the family she loves, Jean had a kidney removed. She recovered well and immediately began setting new goals. Whether Jean has a big goal in mind or a simple one—such as daily enjoyment with her family, finishing a good book or sewing—she knows the significance of setting your eyes on the things that mean the most to you and finding the strength to move towards them, no matter what.

So, when Jean had a recurrence of renal cancer in 2013, she knew what to do—she set the goal to be at her grandson’s college graduation. She also knew where to get care. Jean traveled to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center every two weeks to participate in a clinical trial. Her daughter Martha, who is a nurse, drives her to Buffalo for her appointments. “I’m so lucky to have my daughter and son live nearby. And that all of my treatments are outpatient, so I can be home when my kids and grandkids stop in for a visit,” Jean says. She’s been on the clinical trial with the immunotherapy drug, now called Opdivo, since 2013. The drug was approved for expanded use by the FDA in 2015, and Jean’s clinical trial continues.

Last year, Jean enjoyed the celebration around her grandson’s wedding. This year she has the birth of her great-grandson to look forward to and, she says, “I have to finish the quilts I started.”