Joe Riehs - Patient Story

"Life is good! I'm feeling great, thanks to the docs at Fox Chase."
‐Joe Riehs

I received the call that I will never forget while I was high above the Delaware River on the Betsy Ross Bridge, between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, working for the Port Authority as a maintenance technician. My doctor called with the news: There was an 85 percent chance that the tumor found on my kidney was cancerous.

Several months earlier, I had visited my primary care doctor because of persistent stomach pain and heartburn. My doctor prescribed medication to alleviate the heartburn. Although it worked, the stomach pain continued. Finally, my urologist ordered an ultrasound, which revealed a suspicious mass on my kidney.

My doctor recommended surgical removal of my entire kidney, but I disagreed. Surgery to remove my kidney was not an acceptable option. I called Fox Chase Cancer Center, which is about five blocks from my house, and made an appointment.

My wife and I consulted with Dr. Robert Uzzo, a urologic surgeon who specializes in kidney surgery. My wife, who is also a nurse, was very impressed with everything she heard. We immediately knew I was in the right hands at the right place.

Dr. Uzzo and his team offer minimally invasive (laparoscopic and robotic) surgery only if it is the most effective method to reach the tumor. He and his team have more experience in robotic partial nephrectomies than most surgeons around the world. In my case, open surgery was recommended because of the location, depth, and complexity of the tumor. Dr. Uzzo performed a partial nephrectomy, in which he was able to remove the tumor and reconstruct my kidney and preserve its function.

I didn’t care how he removed the tumor, as long as he could save my kidney. If I had listened to the first doctor, I might only have one kidney left. But Dr. Uzzo saved 90% of my kidney and preserved my quality of my life.

I’ve heard that many brilliant surgeons have no bedside manner to speak of, but I didn’t find that to be the case with Dr. Uzzo, who is an extremely skilled surgeon and fantastic to talk to. The nursing care before and after my procedure was also terrific. Sue Burke, Dr. Uzzo’s nurse, is absolutely wonderful to work with.

I tell my friends, “If you learn you might have cancer, don’t go anywhere but Fox Chase.” The nurses are awesome. They treat you like family. Rita Dougherty, a nurse on the third floor, is sharp. She was on top of every one of my concerns. In fact, Rita would answer my questions even before I asked them!

I’m now back to work on the bridge and back on my Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Life is good! I’m feeling great, thanks to the docs at Fox Chase.