Diagnosis · Musings · Post-Treatment · Victory


Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
– Dylan Thomas

Some days, I sit back and think, “If you had told pre-cancer Laura what her life would look like post-cancer, she wouldn’t have believed you.”

Today is one of those days.

In 2015, I made my first trip to San Francisco for a work conference. I was riding such a high – I was a month away from my biggest career milestones yet: leading the public relations efforts for the debut of one of the largest conference centers within a resort on the East Coast. On top of that, I had just received a promotion. On my way to the airport, I posted an announcement that I was about to take on my first management role overseeing the marketing team for three properties on the Las Vegas Strip. The next few weeks would be a whirlwind working on the grand opening in Atlantic City while learning the ropes for my new role in Vegas.

Less than a year later, on May 10, 2016, I was blindsided with a stage four kidney cancer diagnosis.

I thought I was going to die. The five-year survival rate that year for metastatic renal cell patients was five percent.

In September of that year, I didn’t have many options. The major surgery UCLA performed – while it saved my life in an acute way – had not spared me from continued metastatic spread. My beloved Dr. Vogelzang strongly believed my best option was a clinical trial sponsored by SWOG Cancer Research Network. I thought maybe the trial would buy me a bit more time, but the quiet part that I didn’t say out loud was that I knew I was dying. I hoped that the research I was going to be a part of would help someone else long after I was gone. It seemed like the only way to shake my fist at this wretched disease consuming my body. You may take me, cancer, I thought, but you’re going to have to take me kicking and screaming on my way out.

Exactly seven years after my diagnosis, here I am back in San Francisco for a conference. But it’s not for work this time. I’m here for SWOG’s spring meeting, because I’m the kidney cancer patient advocate on the same committee who led the trial that saved my life.

Today, the five-year survival rate is fifteen percent for metastatic kidney cancer patients. 

I’m involved with groups like SWOG because I want that number to continue growing higher.

It’s surreal to me sometimes that my focus on cancer is no longer primarily on my personal experience, but it’s on research, advocacy and support. I feel like I’ve evolved through several different versions of myself in these seven years that I could not have begun to comprehend I was in the hospital bed receiving the worst news of my life.

Seven years of kicking.

Seven years of screaming.

One day I’ll go into that good night, but it won’t be without raging against the dying of the light.


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