Katz finds out she has cancer through kidney donation process
By Leah Vann
Janet Katz, 67, was ready to give her kidney to her boyfriend, Larry Luskey, 62.
The tests showed she was the perfect match, and the next steps were just interviews, paperwork and a CT scan.
But the CT scan revealed she had cancer on her left kidney.
“I had no symptoms,” Katz said. “So, instead of me being the hero to my boyfriend he ended up being my hero because I never would have known.”
Doctors estimate that Katz had been living with cancer for five years. She had the kidney removed immediately and will go in for a CT scan in six months to see if she needs to do chemotherapy. She says there is a 30% chance of the cancer coming back and she’s already a breast cancer survivor.
Katz’s mitzvah was repaid in the form of a life-saving discovery, but the problem is, Luskey still needs a kidney and none of his immediate family members are a match. Potential donors can get tested to see if they are a candidate to be Luskey’s donor at Medical City in Dallas or Fort Worth if they present his name when they get tested.
“Even if you get tested to do it, you don’t have to give it,” Luskey said. “You can back out. You can change your mind. You can decide not to do it. It’s a very personal thing. That’s a very difficult thing to do, but it is a double mitzvah in the Jewish faith.”
Luskey’s failing kidneys mean he will start dialysis once his levels are bad enough. Dialysis involves hours of being hooked to a blood-filtering machine that removes toxins and excess water from the blood. It’s a lifelong commitment that can be physically draining on the body.
But he’s trying to stay positive. The two believe in looking at the bright side, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. They hope that their story helps others, especially people in their 60s. According to the American Cancer Society, the average age of a person with kidney cancer is 64, and it’s very uncommon to see the disease in people younger than 45 years old.
If Katz had not been tested at all as a potential kidney donor, she wouldn’t have known about her cancer.
“It’s a cancer that wouldn’t have shown up until it was too late,” Katz said.
The process to get tested as a potential donor starts with a blood test and is free of charge. Additional tests if identified as a potential donor are covered by Luskey’s insurance.
Even if someone is not a match, there’s a kidney trade option.
“If somebody who donates a kidney is not the right blood type, it is still OK,” Luskey said. “They have an organization where they can do a kidney trade with somebody who needs that kidney and in exchange, give one to me.”