A Fighting Spirit

James Grazier keeps positive attitude despite multiple cancer diagnoses

photo of James Grazier

James Grazier is no stranger to cancer. He's beat it twice.

After living through cancer twice, James has learned to focus on the good things in life – his family and friends, and the hobbies he enjoys. He has also become an advocate for getting regular checkups and knowing your own body.

James was first diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2006. To receive care, he chose to travel from his home in Jefferson City to a major cancer center in St. Louis. "There was a really good surgeon there," James said. "He did a good job on my surgery, and I've continued to see him once a year ever since."

In 2016, when James returned to St. Louis for a routine CAT scan, his doctor noticed something abnormal. "He said that everything in my esophagus and lungs looked good but there was a mass on my kidney," James said. "I thought to myself, 'What do I do now?'"

James returned to Jefferson City and made an appointment with a local urologist. Because James' CAT scan wasn’t focused on his kidney specifically, the urologist ordered another CAT scan. "After the second CAT scan, my doctor in Jefferson City confirmed the mass and referred me to Dr. Murray at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center in Columbia," James said. "When I got here, I was surprised that the facilities and care were as good as where I was treated in St. Louis – without the traffic and travel time."

James met with Katie Murray, DO, a urological oncologist at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center. Murray gave him the news: James had a large kidney mass that was most likely cancer. "It's really important to me to take the time to explain the diagnosis, treatment and expectations for surgery to my patients," Murray said.

Murray explained that, just like in James’ case, kidney cancer is most often diagnosed on CAT scans or other imaging that is obtained for another health reason. “The treatment for kidney cancer is surgical removal,” Murray said. “Because of this, I immediately recommended nephrectomy (kidney removal) to James.”

"I thought, 'Man. Something else to deal with,'" James said. The uncertainty he felt with his first cancer quickly returned. James said his main concern was how extensive the cancer was and what his recovery might look like.

Luckily, James' family and friends, Dr. Murray, and the Ellis Fischel team were by his side the entire time. Dr. Murray removed James’ kidney on Oct. 4, 2016. The surgery results revealed the kidney did have cancer but it hadn't spread beyond. James and his family breathed a sigh of relief.

Unlike his first cancer surgery, which required time in the intensive care unit and a long hospital stay, James' kidney-removal surgery did not have a long recovery time. "Removing the kidney cancer was much easier," he said. "After surgery, I was up and moving around in just a day or two."

James credits his recovery on the cancer’s location and Murray’s skill. "Working with Dr. Murray was great," he said. "She's a delightful, skilled person and everything has worked out exactly the way she said it would."

Now that he's cancer-free again, James looks forward to playing golf and spending time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He encourages everyone to have regular checkups and to take everything seriously. "If it doesn't get better, it's probably going to get worse," he said.