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Ricardo’s Story

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Ricardo loves serving in the ministry, especially as leader of his parish in New Cuyama, California. An optimistic people person, Ricardo’s faith is strong, and he cares deeply about others, so when he got the bad news about his health, his first thought was – how would this affect those he loves?

Ricardo’s pain started in his lower back. He realized he was having an issue with his kidneys. His doctor sent him to a urologist who performed kidney stone surgery…  but the doctor would soon discover a bigger problem.  An x-ray and CT scan revealed a tumor in Ricardo’s liver.  It was cancer.  Stage 4. “The kidney stones actually saved my life. Without that issue, I wouldn’t have had the other tests,” Ricardo tells us.

Reflecting on the many difficult situations in his life, Ricardo says when he got the diagnosis, his first thought was how he would prepare his wife and family.  He was more concerned about his family’s reaction than fear over his own mortality.

Ricardo left his job as minister, went on disability and started his cancer treatment. However, after six months it was clear the treatment wasn’t working. In fact, Ricardo remembers his doctor telling him he was not optimistic at all. “He said he wanted to be honest with me – he didn’t have much hope.”  Ricardo says his doctor told him he would never use the words “healed” or “cured”.

But after learning that the standard treatment failed him, Ricardo would soon get some hopeful news: he was eligible for an immunotherapy clinical trial at University of Southern California Norris Cancer Center. Ricardo says he was told it “may or may not work”.  But he was willing to give it a shot to save his life.

Ricardo was accepted into the trial through a Lazarex Cancer Foundation/USC partnership known as IMPACT (Improving Patient Access to Cancer Clinical Trials) in which patients are offered reimbursement for travel expenses to their clinical trials. Ricardo says the reimbursements were helpful and he said he doesn’t know if he would have actually considered a clinical trial if he hadn’t been exposed to IMPACT.

To get to treatment Ricardo traveled from Ventura County to USC two to three times each month for treatment. That’s three hours round trip each time.

After 5 years on the clinical trial, Ricardo’s prayers were answered, the tumor in his liver shrunk from 15 cm to 2 cm.  He did so well his doctors are now taking him off the clinical trial and putting him on another trial.  

Ricardo says he’s feeling so well he’s able to get outside and garden in the yard regularly and spend more time with family.  He’s not able to work yet, but he says there is time. He’s optimistic and thankful for the clinical trial opportunity, and to Lazarex IMPACT for the reimbursement that allowed him to participate.