ORLANDO, Fla. – A sudden and unexpected illness last year revealed a hidden life-threatening condition for News 6 Traffic Safety Expert Steven Montiero.
Last April, Montiero sought treatment for what he thought were symptoms of COVID-19 only to find out cancer -- not the coronavirus -- was what he’d been battling. The discovery came only after a hospital stay for double lung bacterial pneumonia.
“There was something (concerning) when (the doctor) told me. You don’t show me a scan like that and say, ‘You have a golf-ball sized tumor on the bottom of your kidney,’ and you expect anybody to think it’s just OK,” Montiero said.
His doctor told him he would need surgery to take a closer look at what had been discovered during a CT scan they initially conducted so they could get a better look at his lungs.
“I thought I was going to get cut open like a fish. I thought I was going to have those stereotypical scars that you see, but it was super-advanced,” Montiero said.
Montiero’s surgeon, Dr. Steve Williams of AdventHealth, specializes in urology and robotic surgery.
“We found a tumor, the tumor came back (and) it was cancerous. Luckily, the margins were negative and, you know, he should have an excellent recovery,” said Williams, adding that Montiero’s surgery was a success.
In a recent interview with News 6 morning anchor and health reporter Kirstin O’Connor, Williams had more good news about Montiero’s condition.
“He’s about a year out and he’s had no evidence of disease recurrence, so that’s great news,” Williams said.
Now, Montiero, who’s a first responder and U.S. Air Force veteran, wants to raise awareness about patient advocacy and preventative care.
“It’s preventative care, don’t ignore the signs, take care of yourself, because if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else,” he said.
Reminders about preventative care have become even more important since the start of the pandemic. The American Cancer Society has been collecting data from 2020, revealing an alarming decline in cancer screenings and preventative care visits during the pandemic -- some by as much as 80-90% during March and April.
At 33 years old and with no family history of cancer, Dr. Williams said Montiero’s risk of kidney cancer was less than 1%.Montiero’s path from discovery to recovery has been remarkable, according to the doctor.
“I mean, this was divine intervention. Pneumonia brought this tumor to light for us to find so that we could take care of it, you know?” Williams said.
O’Connor asked Williams if he’d ever seen a situation like Montiero’s before.
“Oh, absolutely. We see it all the time, you know. We see patients come in with kidney stones, we do a CT scan, they find a tumor. They come in with acute appendicitis and then you find a tumor somewhere else, so this is, you know, as I said before, this is typically the way we’re finding a lot of our tumors now, incidentally found while imaging for something completely unrelated,” Williams said.
That’s why Montiero is sharing his testimony, hoping it will encourage people to “listen” to their bodies.
“I genuinely feel that there are people out there who need to hear my story,” he said.
If something seems off -- or even if it doesn’t -- he wants people to make their health a priority.
“I know it’s always comforted me to see someone who I see as strong become very vulnerable, truthful, especially when we can maybe affect someone’s choices, someone’s lifestyle, maybe even the way we practice medicine,” he said.
Where are we now?
After making the decision to finally share his story with Central Florida, ClickOrlando.com’s Brianna Volz sat down with Trooper Steve to talk to him about his health plan moving forward and why he decided to go public with his situation almost one year later.
You can watch their full interview in the video player below.
Health resources during the pandemic
Trooper Steve would not have known about his condition if he hadn’t gone to the hospital after experiencing what he thought was symptoms of COVID-19. He’s now sharing his story in an effort to encourage others not to neglect their health needs because they’re afraid to visit a health care facility during the coronavirus pandemic.
Health officials have also warned against putting off necessary visits because it could allow someone’s condition to worsen over time. Florida doctors have said for months that the hospitals are “very, very safe.” You can read more about hospital safety during the pandemic here.
Telemedicine is also a great option for anyone who thinks they might need non-emergency medical attention and is still trying to limit in-person visits. Click here to find telehealth options in Central Florida.