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Michael Laurenzi - Patient Story

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"I knew I wanted to go to Fox Chase for a second opinion."

— Michael Laurenzi, Kidney and Pancreatic Patient

I ended up in the emergency room of a hospital near my home in Media, PA, in 2013 because of a high fever. The doctors examined me and then sent me home, saying I probably had picked up a bug, but I had to be admitted two days later when my fever spiked to 104.

The hospital ran all kinds of tests and even brought in an infectious disease specialist to examine me. They drew 15 vials of blood over several days while I was hospitalized, but none of the results were conclusive. Then they ordered a CT scan, which detected a mass on my right kidney.

The day after I got that news, the infectious disease doctor told me that my high fever was due to a tick-borne illness. It wasn’t Lyme disease, but the illness was enough to make every joint in my body hurt and to give me a high fever and migraine headaches. The tick-borne illness was completely unrelated to the tumor that had been detected the previous day, but the high fever it caused may have saved my life because it led to a CT scan.

After the urologist at the hospital recommended I have surgery to remove the mass on my kidney, I decided to go to Fox Chase Cancer Center for a second opinion because my mother and sister had been treated there.

I made an appointment with Dr. Marc Smaldone, a urologic surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive surgery for kidney tumors. Dr. Smaldone ordered some additional imaging, which detected a tumor on my pancreas. At that point, Dr. Smaldone added a surgical oncologist who specializes in gastrointestinal cancers, to my treatment team. A subsequent biopsy revealed that I had cancer on both my kidney and pancreas, and immediate surgery was recommended.

During the 12-hour procedure, Dr. Smaldone performed a right robotic partial nephrectomy, which removed the tumor but preserved the functioning of my kidney. Also the surgical oncologist performed a laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy/splenectomy to remove the tumor on my pancreas. Because the cancer was caught early, I didn’t need any chemotherapy or radiation. My surgery was on a Tuesday, and by Sunday I knew that surgeons had gotten all of the cancer and that I could go home.

I am very lucky the tick bit me, because I had no symptoms and no idea that I had cancer. I have nothing but the highest regard for those doctors and their teams. They are so caring and compassionate, and they literally gave me my life back. It took a while to regain my strength after the surgery, but I recovered well. I still go back to Fox Chase every six months for follow-up, and so far everything has been fine and I am back to normal.

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