When Pete Bansbach saw his family medicine doctor at Highland Hospital for cellulitis, he had a cough and his doctor was concerned. After an ER visit, blood work, a CT scan and a biopsy – a months-long ordeal – he learned he had stage 2 lung cancer.
He had radiation therapy with Deepinder Singh, M.D., and the treatment helped shrink his tumors. But about nine months later, scans showed more tumors. Pete’s cancer was stage 4.
Pete received treatment but his symptoms worsened to the point where he had to use a walker. In addition to his cancer, he also has emphysema, and he could hardly get around because it was so hard to breathe. He decided to enroll in a clinical trial for an immunotherapy treatment called nivolumab with his medical oncology team, which included Ronald Maggiore, M.D., and his nurse practitioner, Julie Kozlowski, N.P.
While it doesn’t work for everyone, this immunotherapy treatment has worked for Pete since 2016. It’s kept his cancer from continuing to spread and he says he feels better than he did before his diagnosis. Since Pete participated in the clinical trial, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the therapy for non-small-cell lung cancer.
“I know that what I’ve got is not going to go away. It’s not going to be cured. They can’t even do surgery because my lungs are so bad,” he says. “They make me as comfortable as they can for as long as they can and they’ve done that and I’m better physically now than I was. I can breathe. I can get around.”
With his cancer at bay, Pete can continue to enjoy the things he loves, like his family and his church – he credits his strong faith for keeping him going with or without cancer. Pete maintains a sense of humor and a positive attitude as much as possible, trying to spread that to anyone he meets.
He says he’s grateful for the positivity that greets him when he arrives for appointments at Wilmot Cancer Institute – to the point where he says he looks forward to coming in.
“It’s just a whole different world. It, to me, is like going to Disney Land. Everybody smiles. And at Strong, everybody smiles. Everybody says hello. Everybody does whatever they can to make you feel comfortable,” he says.
Despite hardship, despite needing oxygen, despite having metastatic cancer, Pete stays positive. He says he’s just glad to be alive and feeling better.
“I’m thankful every day when I get up. I tell people I’m a walking miracle,” he says.
He adds, “The opportunity to live every day of your life is a blessing.”