Kidney cancer patient to fellow patients: keep fighting

September 29, 2015 | by Denise Heady


It's understandable that, when Cindy Pasternak learned of her husband's cancer diagnosis on April 1, 2014, she hoped it was an April Fool's joke. But medical tests had revealed that what David Pasternak, then 63, a successful Los Angeles attorney, had dismissed as a persistent case of bronchitis was, in fact, something far more grave.

David Pasternak was told he had lung cancer.

“I was in shock,” Cindy Pasternak said. Also a lawyer, she has now established a practice as a mediator.

“How could it be lung cancer?" she asked. "Dave is healthy and doesn’t smoke. The diagnosis really threw me for a loop.”

After more tests, doctors discovered that the cancer was actually kidney cancer that had spread to David Pasternak's lungs. The kidney cancer was so advanced, it had already begun to spread to other organs. Given the extent of his cancer, some might have estimated Pasternak's survival at between six months and one year — maybe even less.

While the prognosis in this scenario was grim, the Pasternaks, married for 27 years, did not let it deter them. Instead, they vowed to seek out the best care available and fight the disease.

A search for the best care

One of the first steps the couple took was to find an oncologist who not only specializes in metastatic kidney cancer, but could also give David Pasternak more time to spend with his wife and three children. Their research led them to Sumanta K. Pal, M.D., assistant clinical professor in the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research and co-director of the Kidney Cancer Program at City of Hope.

Pal primarily treats patients with advanced kidney cancer that has spread to their lungs, bones and other organs. Along with his colleagues at City of Hope, Pal is working aggressively to investigate new treatments for rare types of kidney cancer. He is also finding ways to better understand how cancers develop and metastasize, how to more accurately predict cancer recurrences and how to improve treatments so they have fewer side effects.

After meeting Pal, the Pasternaks knew they had found their guy.

“Monty is so optimistic, relieves any anxiety and is just a calming influence,” Cindy Pasternak said. “He absolutely knows what he’s doing and he gives you hope.”

After kidney cancer, a new lease on life

Pal immediately put David Pasternak on a clinical trial-based therapy to help treat his cancer, and Pasternak has been responding incredibly well. So well, in fact that, while recovering from treatment, Pasternak has successfully gone on to become president of the State Bar of California.

In October, when Pasternak is sworn in as the 91st president of the state bar, he will help lead an organization that oversees more than a quarter-million licensed lawyers — the largest state bar in the country.

“Monty deserves all the credit,” Pasternak said of his new role.

Cindy Pasternak, a past president of the Beverly Hills Bar Association, is also being recognized with that organization's Louis E. Fox Award for lifetime achievement — the highest honor given by the association.

While Pasternak and his wife are aware that there is presently no cure for his disease, they are optimistic they are under the care of a doctor who will help find one.

“We have to fight it as long as we can because who knows if there’s going to be cure tomorrow,” Cindy Pasternak said. “And I believe Monty is finding a cure.”


If you have been diagnosed with kidney cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-HOPE. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.


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