My name is Kevin Cheda, and I am 32 years old. I grew up in a small coastal town called Point Reyes Station, which is about one hour north of San Francisco in California. My parents owned the small grocery store in Pt. Reyes, and my entire family; grandparents, parents, older brother and sister all worked at the store. I graduated from Tomales High School in 1986, and went on to graduate from California State University, Chico in 1990. My Major was Organizational Communication, with a Minor in Business.
In the summer before my last semester at Chico State I started to have some pain in my left hip. Due to the fact that I was only 21 years old, and very active, the doctors kept telling me that it was just an athletic injury. As the days wore on the pain became worse. A biopsy was done in the early summer of 1990 to discover that I had a type of cancer called Liposarcoma.
I had my first surgery in August, 1990 to remove the tumor. I attended my last semester of college, while having radiation treatments at the Chico Memorial Hospital. I graduated on time, and started my career with Wells Fargo Bank. In my mind, I was finished with Cancer forever.
On a blind date in October 1991, I met the person who would be the pillar of my strength for many years ahead, and the woman that I would marry, her name is Lisa. We met in October, and were engaged a year later. Our wedding was scheduled for October, 1993, but in May I started to once again feel pain in my left hip area.
In July, 1993 another biopsy was performed to show that the pain in my hip was Chondroblastic Osteosarcoma, and this tumor was probably induced by my prior radiation treatment in 1990. Lisa and I received the bad news on Tuesday, July 20,1993. Two days later, on Thursday, July 22, 1993 we were married, and on Monday, July 26, 1993 I started chemotherapy for the first time. The protocol was for three types of chemo drugs, and in the short span of three months I got so sickly that daily visits to the emergency room were not unheard of. I had surgery to remove the tumor in December, 1993. My hip area was reconstructed with internal grafts and prostheses.
For the next three years, I was able to go back to work, I could walk, but with a strong limp, and a cane. My left leg was thin and weak, I could not do any form of exercise, other then swim. I struggled mentally trying to discover how I could remain active and physically fit, but there were very few things I could do because of what I referred to as my “dead” leg. On the other side of the spectrum things were going good for me professionally. In 1994 I got promoted from Bank Officer with Wells Fargo to Assistant Manager. In 1995, I got my second promotion to Branch Manager, and at the time, was the youngest Manager in the Oakland Berkeley Region.
In July, 1997 after living with extreme pain in my left hip, once again, an MRI scan showed recurrent Osteosarcoma. I immediately started chemo for the second time in my life, and even though I knew what to expect this time, there was nothing easy about it.
In November 1997, after getting quite a few opinions, Lisa and I made the decision for me to have a hemi-pelvectomy procedure done to remove three joints on my body: the hip, the knee, and the ankle. After three weeks in the hospital, and two weeks in rehabilitation, I was able to come home for Christmas. The adjustment was hard, but once I got used to using crutches and the wheelchair, things started to fall into place for me. Looking back now, I realize that losing my leg actually made me more mobile, then when I had to walk with the cane. As time passed, my balance got better, and I was able to use the crutches more, and the wheelchair less.
It was at this time that I started working out in a gym for the first time in my life. A good friend took me under his wing, and guided me through exercises three times a week. I also was able to purchase a three wheeled hand-cycle which I use to escape to the outdoors on a regular basis. I have found that lifting weights and staying fit has helped me stay both physically and mentally strong in my fight against cancer.
At this point my doctors were very hopeful that they had cured the area in my hip from disease. They had got good margins around the tumor, and were not expecting anything to come back. It was also at this time that they informed us about small tumors that can come back on my lungs called metastases.
The doctors immediately started scheduling CT scans on my lungs. The lungs were watched very closely and over time the first “spot” appeared. In 1998, I had my first of what would be three thoracotomy surgeries to remove small malignant spots that had formed on my lungs. In August, 1998 they operated on my right lung removing one spot. In February, 1999 I had surgery on my left side removing three malignant spots.
After my second lung surgery my wife started to do some investigative research on the Internet. She found clinical trials that were being done by the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. We did start a trial in April of 1999 and were hopeful that the medication was working until March of 2000 when two spots showed on CT Scan, one my right lung, and one on my left lung. In May 2000, I had my third operation on my lungs, removing five spots, but only one was cancerous.
After the surgery in May of 2000, my doctor at the National Institute of Health referred us to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. The surgery in May cleared out my right lung, but I still have a tumor on my left lung. When Lisa and I heard the results that patients were getting from this new chemo called ET-743, we knew we had to give it a shot. I had a total of six treatments over a six month period, before a CT scan revealed that the tumor on my left lung had gotten bigger in size. After consulting with our doctors, we made the decision to try another conventional chemo before attempting surgery. I started a drug called Gemcitabine on February 13, 2001, and plan to get six weeks of treatments before having more scans done.
As you can see, the past 11 years has not been the easiest, but at the same time, there has been many inspiring times as well. If I look back, I have had twice as many good times, as I have had times of struggle. My wife and I have met extraordinary people battling this disease with extraordinary stories from the West to the East coast. We have met people in the medical field that have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help us through difficult times and most of all we have met incredible individuals that we would have never met otherwise. Above all, I believe that a positive attitude is the only way to fight this disease, because without it you are letting cancer control your life. I believe that my positive attitude helps in giving me hope for the future.
“Don’t give up, don’t ever give up” Jimmy Valvano.
Kevin died on January 6, 2002 surrounded by the love of his family and his wife Lisa. Kevin was an active member of the Bay Area Sarcoma support group. He was a source of courage and inspiration to many and will be remembered as a man who truly lived by Jimmy Valvano’s motto “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” Kevin was chosen to carry the Olympic torch on January 18, 2002. He will be with his wife Lisa as she carries the torch in his honor.