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Kidney Cancer Patient Stories

James Tetzlaff

Kidney Cancer

James Tetzlaff

Kidney Cancer

When he thinks back on October 28, 2013, Jim Tetzlaff realizes it would have been easy to ignore what happened and not give it another thought. “I’m a man – we have a tendency to ignore things that have to do with our health,” says Jim, who was 75 at the time. On that day, after one of his grandson’s football games, Jim went to the bathroom and saw blood in his urine. “It was upsetting, but I didn’t have any other symptoms so I thought it had to be a fluke,” recalls the former medical equipment salesman.

Carolyn Tonic-Robinson

Kidney Cancer

Carolyn Tonic-Robinson

Kidney Cancer

In 2003, Carolyn Tonic-Robinson had a routine colonoscopy. She was 63 and was working full-time as a special education teacher, turned guidance counselor. While she waited for her results of the procedure, Carolyn subconsciously began rubbing her left side. A co-worker asked her if something was hurting her.

Louis Della Penna

Kidney Cancer

Louis Della Penna

Kidney Cancer

Louis Della Penna made an appointment at Fox Chase Cancer Center in 1994 because he was concerned about a chronic sore throat. It was the best decision he made since he learned shortly after that he had kidney cancer. Louis underwent surgery to remove the cancer from his kidney and surrounding tissue. Today he is cancer free and supports programs at Fox Chase, including two endowments he and his wife funded. "My feelings for Fox Chase are very strong," he said. "If you want to support something wonderful, there is no better place to give, no matter what your contribution. I am cancer free today, and I continue to return to Fox Chase for follow-up visits. It’s an amazing story."

Darnell Washington

Kidney Cancer

Darnell Washington

Kidney Cancer

Darnell Washington had severe back pain in 2011 and ended up at a local hospital in Philadelphia. Tests conducted detected a renal hemorrhage caused by tumors around both of his kidneys. After X-rays and an MRI, an oncologist at the hospital said the tumors were cancerous and that his only option was to have both kidneys removed. Darnell was only 52 years old and would spend the rest of his life on dialysis. He decided to seek a second opinion with Dr. Robert Uzzo at Fox Chase Cancer Center. Dr. Uzzo said the imaging tests were poor and that he couldn’t make a firm diagnosis based on those tests, so he ordered an extensive round of testing that included outpatient biopsies of Darnell's kidney masses. When both tests came back benign, Darnell was beyond thrilled to know he did not have cancer after all.  With regular monitoring, Darnell can live a dialysis-free life. "If it weren’t for Dr. Uzzo and his knowledge of these things, I would not have the quality of life I have today," he said. "From the beginning, it was such a good experience for me at Fox Chase. Everyone was so nice and understanding. They made it as easy as possible on me."

Mary Crowther

Kidney Cancer

Mary Crowther

Kidney Cancer

It was Christmas Eve, 2014, and Mary Crowther, a loving wife, mother and grandmother, was enjoying the holidays with her family.  Later that evening, she experienced a sudden onset of hematuria (blood in her urine) progressing to vomiting and flank pain. This resulted in a trip to the emergency room early Christmas morning. She spent eight days in a community hospital, most of it in the ICU due to right kidney failure and sepsis. Several rounds of tests indicated that Mary had stage 3 kidney cancer.

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