City Councilman, Tampa
In 2008, Mike Suarez had a serious car accident that might have saved his life. The Tampa city councilman was driving close to his home when another motorist pulled out in front of him. His car hit the side of the other car, causing a fracture to Mike’s sternum. Barely able to breathe, he was taken to a local hospital where he later had an x-ray to determine whether there were internal injuries. But they found something else.
“While I was sitting there trying to recover, they said, ‘we found something’…a carcinogen in my kidney,” he recalls. He had cancer. And then another chance event: a co-worker mentioned her husband worked at Moffitt as a CT scanner.
Were it not for the accident, the cancer may have gone undiagnosed for years, because kidney cancer is difficult to detect in its early stages. Mike recalls his Moffitt kidney cancer specialist telling him, “Chances are three years later you would come in and you would have had a spreading of the cancer to your other organs.” By then it may have been too late.
The good news was that Mike’s cancer was encapsulated within his kidney. Removing the kidney removed the cancer, avoiding the need for chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Relieved, he agreed to be part of a Moffitt clinical trial designed to help future kidney patients be tested for the possibility of kidney cancer.
But two months later, another surprise. His mother had been complaining of back pain. A scan revealed an unlikely coincidence—kidney cancer. Unlike his own, her cancer had gotten into the veins that connected her kidney to the rest of her system. Fortunately, she had the benefit of the same specialist Mike had seen, and her procedure was a success. Both have been cancer-free ever since.
Married with three boys, Mike was impressed by the courage he witnessed among Moffitt’s doctors and nurses. Particularly when dealing with children. “That really is to me” he says, “the kind of courage you need. To do that each and every day takes a lot of courage in my mind.”