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David Francis - Patient Story

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Dave knew immediately that he wanted Dr. Chen to perform his surgery.

— David Francis, Kidney Cancer Survivor

When Dave Francis gets on his bike, he feels like a kid again.  The native Philadelphian celebrated his 72nd birthday this year by riding in the Tour de Shore, a 65-mile ride for charity to the Jersey shore in 2015.

Not so bad for a guy who survived kidney cancer.

Like many men over 50, Dave saw a urologist regularly to monitor his prostate health. Fit, active and healthy, Dave was more than surprised in January 2011 when his routine ultrasound delivered a diagnosis of cancer. “I’d had no symptoms,” he explains. “It came as a complete shock to me and the urologist.”

That early detection was the best thing that could have happened to Dave, who retired from construction sales in 2008. His urologist suggested surgery, and outlined a few options, none of which included laparoscopic surgery. “But he told me that there were doctors who could take a more minimally invasive approach and could possibly salvage my kidney,” recalls Dave. After his wife Maria told him about a friend with a similar diagnosis treated at Fox Chase Cancer Center, Dave made an appointment with David Y.T. Chen, MD FACS, a urologic surgical oncologist.

Dave knew immediately that he wanted Dr. Chen to perform his surgery.

“Within 90 seconds, maybe even sooner, I knew this was the man I wanted to perform my surgery. Dr. Chen said, ‘But David, of course we’re going to do it laparascopically, and of course, we are only going to remove part of your kidney – and of course the outcome will be good.’ I felt that he had a plan – and I said yes, let’s go,” confirms Dave.

Because his cancer was caught early, Dave was able to be cured surgically and did not require additional treatment, such as chemotherapy. His surgery was scheduled for February.

“I asked Dr. Chen to call me if he had a cancellation on his schedule,” he explains. A few weeks before the scheduled surgery, Dave got a call to say there was an earlier opening in Dr. Chen’s schedule. 

“The night before my surgery, it snowed like you would not believe – my wife and I were digging out while it was still dark,” shares Dave, who was fasting and did not even drink one sip of water. “Thank goodness we have a Subaru!” When they arrived at Fox Chase, the entire staff was there, including Dr. Chen, who had been rescued from his snowbound driveway. “That dedication was just amazing to me.” 

The surgical procedure was a complete success. “It wasn’t fun – you’re beat up, you have a catheter – just what every guy wants,” he chuckles. “But my care was outstanding.” One of Dr. Chen’s colleagues came in after the surgery to reassure Dave about the outcome. “He said to me, ‘Don’t worry, you’re going to live a long and healthy life.’”

Dave felt the entire team exuded confidence.

“They give it to you – it’s contagious,” he shares. “At one point when I was frustrated at not being able to urinate, I said to Ophelia, the lovely nurse’s aide assigned to my room, which I was so mad I could cry. She said, ‘If you want to cry, cry on me.’ That really moved me– she’ll live in my mind for as long as Dr. Chen.”

In 2015, Dave is considered cancer-free and feeling great. He still sees Dr. Chen once a year for routine scans. “It’s amazing – almost like it happened to somebody else,” adds Dave. “I don’t even think of it. What happened was exactly what that young doctor said was going to happen. I would recommend Fox Chase to anybody.”

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