Marcia Renouf - Patient Story

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"Whenever I needed a nurse, they appeared within moments of me ringing the bell."

— Marcia Renouf

I continue to be cancer free 5 years after I was diagnosed with bladder cancer and was successfully treated with chemotherapy and surgery.

It was February 2012 when I noticed blood in my urine and recognized that something was wrong. I immediately made an appointment with my primary care doctor and saw the doctor the same day, followed by an ultrasound that afternoon. After the ultrasound, I was referred to a local urologist for more testing. The cystoscopy performed that day detected a tumor in my bladder.

Two days later the urologist surgically removed the mass which had started to invade the wall of the bladder. I was shocked to learn that I had bladder cancer. Three weeks later, the urologist performed a second procedure to make sure no cancerous tissue remained.

My first thought, of course, was why me, but I moved quickly to learn how best my condition could be treated. At that point my urologist and I discussed the options, including getting a second opinion. I knew Fox Chase Cancer Center was the place to go, because my mother and husband had both been treated there.

I was very familiar with Fox Chase’s excellent reputation, and I knew that cancer is all they do. I researched several of the large Philadelphia hospitals, but Fox Chase was the clear leader in the treatment of bladder cancer. The doctors are incredibly well trained and are from some of the best medical schools in the country. I felt very fortunate to live only 25 minutes away from such a top-notch facility.

I was initially scheduled to see Dr. Rosalia Viterbo, a urologic oncologist at Fox Chase. Dr. Viterbo was terrific about explaining things and discussing a plan of treatment. However, because she was pregnant at the time and due to deliver when I would be ready for surgery, we decided it was best for me to see Dr. David Y.T. Chen, who is also a urologic oncologist at Fox Chase. When I first met Dr. Chen, my first impression was that he was extremely nice, patient, thorough in his explanations, and very qualified. Dr. Chen told me about research showing that patients who had chemotherapy before surgery were experiencing better outcomes than those who had surgery first.

My next meeting was with Dr. Elizabeth Plimack, a medical oncologist at Fox Chase who specializes in treating patients with bladder cancer. Dr. Plimack consulted with Dr. Chen and they developed an individualized treatment plan for me that started with a four-drug cocktail of chemotherapy that was administered once a week, every 2 weeks, for 3 sessions.

Three weeks after chemotherapy was complete, Dr. Chen performed a minimally invasive, robotic-assisted radical cystectomy to remove my bladder and 33 nearby lymph nodes. He then created an ileal conduit which provides a pathway for urine to exit my body. I spent just over a week in the hospital following surgery. The nursing care I received was phenomenal. I was monitored constantly in the first few days, and whenever I needed a nurse, they appeared within moments of me ringing the bell. They were kind, compassionate, efficient, very professional, and I loved them.

I am very positive in my outlook, my experience, and my adjustment to life without a bladder. I continue to enjoy a full life 5 years later. I owe that to Dr. Chen, Dr. Plimack, and my Fox Chase family. I urge anyone with cancer to consider Fox Chase for a second opinion. I was extremely lucky to have all my appointments scheduled quickly, to get my chemotherapy started with very little wait time, and to have my surgery completed before the start of summer. I had been diagnosed in February, and by May I had finished chemotherapy and surgery. It still amazes me how fast everything happened. I did my part by immediately calling my doctor at the first sign of blood in my urine. My doctors and Fox Chase kept everything moving along.

John and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary in 2014 with a family trip to the Outer Banks, NC. John has been by my side throughout this whole cancer journey. He’s the kindest, most attentive husband in the world. He too has nothing but high praise for everyone at Fox Chase! I am fortunate that my two children and four grandchildren live nearby, so I can see them frequently. Being a grandmother brings me incredible joy. I also enjoy singing in the church choir, playing hand-bells, gardening, and volunteering for a couple of different organizations.

Throughout this experience, I never lost sight of my goal to get through treatment and recovery and then get back to my life. I entered this journey praying that I would be one of the lucky ones to survive this cancer. So far things are looking very, very good. I feel healthy today, 5 years later.

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