Remarkable recovery: Retired NYPD sergeant beats rare cancer

Man beats rare cancer
Man beats rare cancer 01:44

COLLEGE POINT, N.Y. -- A man from Arizona has special reason to celebrate this New Year. 

He was diagnosed with a rare cancer last year and told his chances of survival were less than five percent. 

Hector Camacho was not sure he would be around to celebrate the holidays with his family this year.

The 55-year-old retired NYPD sergeant has been battling a rare cancer that had spread to his lungs.

“I started coughing, I started really feeling bad,” he explained. “A lot of pain. I couldn’t sleep at night, painkillers, the pain was brutal, brutal.”

Hector Camacho.  CBS News

Last year, Camacho was diagnosed with cancer of the urethra -- the tube that carries urine from the bladder.

“The majority of men with this type of cancer don’t live longer than a year,” said Dr. Arjun Balar. 

Balar of NYU’s Perlmutter Cancer Center recommended chemotherapy, but Camacho wanted another option. Doctors came up with a treatment plan that included radiation and immune therapy. 

The family didn’t know for more than a year if it would work.

“And it was just this total sense of loss like what can we do,” said Hector Camacho’s son. “We didn’t know what to do.”

Three months ago they got the news. He is cancer-free.

“It is a miracle, it is,” said Nilda Camacho, Hector’s wife. 

Hector Camacho said he is feeling pretty lucky. 

His remarkable recovery is now helping doctors treat other patients.

“His experience is leading us to design new clinical trials and other approaches for patients with this type of cancer,” said Balar. 

Dr. Arjun Balar.    CBS News

“We are his kids so of course we think he’s a super hero, but even more so now,” said Cindy Camacho, Hector’s daughter. 

Hector Camacho credits his doctors, his faith and his family.

“I love my kids,” he said.