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Paul Cervone - Patient Story

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"I was firmly impressed with the way each person at Fox Chase showed concern and empathy for my well-being."

— Paul Cervone, Stage 4 Bladder Cancer Survivor

I was diagnosed with bladder cancer in June 2002, around the same time that I celebrated my 50th birthday. I knew something was wrong when I started experiencing painful urination. After several rounds of testing at a local hospital, the doctors found a suspicious mass during a cystoscopy, which turned out to be cancerous. I had the biopsy performed by another doctor to confirm the diagnosis, and I also sought a second opinion at a hospital in Center City, Philadelphia.

For a third opinion, I was referred to Fox Chase Cancer Center, which seemed like a good fit. Upon one of my first visits, I had a fine needle aspiration biopsy that confirmed the diagnosis as Stage 4 metastatic bladder cancer. Fox Chase was great in determining the issue and offering me solutions with a skilled team of doctors. Although removal of my bladder was recommended, I refused that treatment and opted instead for a six-month course of chemotherapy. During those six months, I was occasionally admitted to the inpatient facility for treatment.

The staff at Fox Chase, from the doctors to the nurses to the cleaning lady, was universally polite, professional, and upbeat during my stays. I was very impressed and grateful. The chemotherapy was successful, and I was cleared of cancer. My physicians, however, believed that I was still at risk of a recurrence if I didn’t have the surgery, but I again declined that option.

I was fine for the next four years, but then cancerous cells were detected during a routine follow up. I was referred to Dr. Richard E. Greenberg, chief of urologic oncology at Fox Chase, who told me that surgery was finally my only option. He performed a radical cystoprostatectomy with lymph node dissection in January 2007. The procedure removed my bladder, prostate, seminal vesicles, and lymph nodes. Then the surgeon performed a urostomy so that urine could drain into a bag on my abdomen.

I had many physical changes to cope with, and I experienced bouts of depression and panic attacks. During my entire stay in the hospital, Dr. Greenberg was in constant contact with my wife and me. He showed a concern not often seen in a surgeon. The care I received from every person was of the first order. I was firmly impressed with the way each person at Fox Chase showed concern and empathy for my well-being.

Unfortunately, my medical challenges continued after that hospitalization. I thought I was suffering from constipation in September 2010 and was hospitalized again. When a colonoscopy detected a mass pressing on my colon, I was referred again to Fox Chase for additional evaluation, which showed that the mass was cancerous and that a colostomy was required. My surgery was conducted that same month, followed by a successful course of radiation therapy. By November 2011, I was able to have the colostomy reversed.

Around that same time, Dr. Elizabeth Plimack, a medical oncologist at Fox Chase, stepped in to manage my care. She has described me as a “super-responder,” meaning that I was essentially cured by medical interventions such as surgery and chemotherapy that usually don’t cure patients with metastatic disease. I have had no recurrence of cancer since 2011.

My wife, Roseanne, and I became grandparents for the first time in August 2015, and, overall, my health has been good since my last surgery. I continue to see Dr. Plimack for follow-up visits, and I am grateful for the doctors and nurses at Fox Chase and all their dedication and compassion. I have seen the level of care some cancer patients have received at other hospitals, and I have found them to not meet the treatment I received at Fox Chase. I have recommended Fox Chase to friends and will continue to do so. The Fox Chase team not only treated my cancers but also extended my life.

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