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Victoria man overcomes cancer, obesity, prepares for November half marathon

By JR Ortega
Oct. 9, 2011 at 5:09 a.m.

Dieting, regular exercise and two surgeries has caused Patrick Kutchka to lose more than 130 pounds since his diagnosis of kidney cancer more than two years ago. Kutchka has not undergone radiation or chemotherapy. He is training to compete in the Rock and Roll half marathon in San Antonio next month.

WHAT IS RENAL CELL CARCINOMA?

Doctors do not know the exact cause of renal cell carcinoma, which is the most common type of kidney cancer in adults.

Some issues that may increase the risk of kidney cancer include:

Dialysis treatment

Family history of renal cell carcinoma

High blood pressure

Horseshoe kidney

Smoking

Polycystic kidney disease and Von Hippel-Lindau disease, a hereditary disease that affects the body's blood vessels.

Abdominal pain and swelling

Back pain

Blood in urine

Swelling of the veins around a testicle

Flank pain

Weight loss

Constipation

Cold intolerance

Excessive hair growth in females

Pale skin

Vision problems

SOURCE: National Institutes of Health; www.nlm.nih.gov

"You never know what's growing inside you," Patrick Kutchka said, his eyes somewhat glazed over.

His wife, Misty, sits close by and offers the warmth of her company.

The 41-year-old Victoria man was talking about his bout with renal cell carcinoma in 2009.

But today, something different grows inside the fit, strong-jawed man - inspiration, and there is plenty to go around.

'I NEVER GOT SICK'

What Kutchka had was appendicitis.

It was a warm May 2009 day when he and his wife were at Citizens Medical Center.

The doctor comes into the holding area and confirms the appendicitis.

But something else is showing up on his tests.

A block splotch in his left kidney.

It was not a far stretch for the doctor to almost diagnose him on the spot.

"They were 95 percent sure it was cancer," Kutchka said. "I never got sick."

Kutchka had no symptoms that would lead him to believe he had cancer, which could have proven deadly had the 4-centimeter-wide tumor grown and spread.

Kutchka had surgery in June to remove the tumor, but the tumor could not be found.

But several months later, he went under the knife again, removing the tumor and a third of his left kidney in November.

Kutchka did not have radiation therapy, and chemotherapy is not effective on renal cell carcinoma, so the best treatment is to remove the tumor in as early a stage as possible.

But weighing 300 pounds still put Kutchka in grave danger.

He needed to lose weight.

Kutchka spent most of 2010 regaining his strength, and in January, he and his wife began a 21-day Daniel fast with their church, Covenant Life. He lost 25 pounds and decided he wanted to continue the fast, which meant no meat, sugar, dairy products or bread.

The weight kept coming off.

By June, Kutchka had run his first 5K. He completed it in 28 minutes, meaning he can run well under a 10-minute mile.

Kutchka's wife listens to her husband as if it were the first time she heard the story.

"It was, by the grace of God, caught," she said.

'THE CANCER NEVER LEAVES YOUR MIND'

Kutchka walks through his living room hallway, looking at several photo frames of him, his wife and their four kids.

In each photo, Kutchka is a different size, a much larger size.

"I know I was packing on the pounds then," he said, pointing at one of the many photos.

Looking at the photos on the wall and the current Kutchka is like looking at night and day.

He hardly looks the same.

But that twinkle in his eyes is what really lets you know that's him in those photos.

Kutchka admits he doesn't even recognize himself.

Kutchka's next goal is the Rock and Roll half marathon in San Antonio in November.

He has trained himself to jog about 8 or 9 miles non-stop during his long runs.

Then, of course, there is the healthy eating. His wife even has lost about 75 pounds.

Not a Sunday goes by at church, that someone isn't impressed by Kutchka's transformation, not only with his weight, but with life in general.

"That's what makes eating Brussels sprouts worth it," his wife said, cracking a smile.

Jogging helps Kutchka lose himself during his runs. Sometimes he prays. Other times, he thinks about what he did throughout the day.

But sometimes the cancer comes back.

"The cancer never leaves your mind," he said, as a silence fell over him and his wife.

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