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William O'Brien - Patient Story

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"The nursing care was excellent and Dr. Smaldone took good care of me."

— William O'Brien

In 2015, Bill O’Brien and his wife, Jackie, celebrated 51 years of marriage. Spending time with friends is very important to them. During a weekly “breakfast club” outing in 2012 – where they meet a group of friends at a local restaurant for breakfast, Bill felt something wasn’t right with him. “I went to the rest room and I started experiencing urinary bleeding," recalls Bill, who realized he needed to see a urologist as soon as possible. Following an exam and testing, the urologist told him that something was detected on his bladder.

Bill underwent a surgical procedure to remove the undiagnosed mass. For the next two years, his scans were clear. Then, something else was detected. “That urologist performed a second procedure and removed the mass," explains Bill. He began to do some thinking. He approached the urologist to find out if a biopsy had been performed. It hadn't.“I decided to do some checking around and I made an appointment with another urologist in my community,” Bill remembers. The new urologist ordered several tests and learned that Bill did, in fact, have cancer - and that it had spread to the muscle of his bladder. “I was told by my doctor that I had two choices,. First, chemotherapy and radiation with hopes of shrinking the cancer and then surgery, or second, removing my bladder with an additional procedure. He told me the recovery would be ‘horrendous.’ I decided I needed to see a doctor who might offer better options." Bill turned to a friend for help. “One of my friends is a healthcare lobbyist. I told him about how my doctors were giving me conflicting information. I wanted to go to a hospital that specialized in cancer treatment. He told me about Fox Chase Cancer Center," shares Bill, who decided to give them a call. 

“When I called Fox Chase, I was immediately impressed," recalls Bill. "A very helpful woman answered the phone and I told her about my frustration: that one doctor told me I had cancer and one doctor told me I didn’t. She was very patient and understanding, all the while validated my feelings. She told me she was going to assign me to a doctor and scheduled the appointment."

Bill met with Marc C. Smaldone, MD, MSHP, a urologic surgical oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center. "I got an appointment within a few days and I thought that was very impressive," says Bill. "When I first met Dr. Smaldone, I liked his pragmatic approach. He was a straight-shooter; told me the facts, and didn’t sugarcoat things. He explained that he wanted to start me on chemotherapy and then described the surgery he would do. I trusted him.” 

For Bill and Jackie, the 90-minute drive from their home in Vineland, New Jersey was a concern. His Fox Chase doctors contacted a Fox Chase Cancer Center Partner hospital near Bill’s home. "It meant so much to my wife and I that we could have the chemotherapy locally at a hospital affiliated with Fox Chase. It was so nice that they worked together on my behalf,” Bill adds.

The five-week course of chemotherapy was successful in shrinking the tumor so that Bill, 75, was a candidate for surgery.

"The nursing care was excellent and Dr. Smaldone took good care of me."

In June 2013, Dr. Smaldone performed a radical cystoprostatectomy with orthotopic neobladder. Dr. Smaldone created a bladder using Bill’s intestine. “I was in the hospital following surgery for 10 days. I don’t remember being in pain, so I feel confident the nursing care was excellent and Dr. Smaldone took good care of me,” he speculates.

From the summer of 2013 until the summer of 2015, Bill saw Dr. Smaldone for periodic checkups and continued to receive good news. There was no recurrence. Then, in June 2015, a spot was detected on his hip. Dr. Smaldone referred Bill to Mark Hallman, MD, PhD, a radiation oncologist at Fox Chase, for radiation therapy targeted to the hip. 

“I am grateful that I continue to be monitored. I know I am in the best hands possible and I try and keep a good attitude. I am compliant and I do what the doctors tell me to do,” he stresses.

Before retiring, Bill was self-employed in the tire business. In 2005, he began teaching defensive driving courses to senior citizens through AARP. His responsibilities have now grown – he is presently a zone leader. Jackie is his course administrator. “We enjoy working and being together,” Bill adds. “I feel grateful to Fox Chase for giving me my peace of mind back.  I especially want to thank Dr. Smaldone. He’s a great person as well as a great doctor.”

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