Henry "Bud" Olencki

Bladder Cancer Patient Stories

Henry

Living with cancer wasn't new to Henry "Bud" Olencki. Diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2003, Bud had localized tumors removed surgically on several occasions. But when the cancer spread to his prostatic urethra in 2009 what had become routine just wasn't working anymore. His urologist said to save his life, Bud would have to have his bladder and prostate removed.

"I had to go the very best place we could find."

"At that point my daughter, stepped in and took the bull by the horns," said Bud, who turned 65 in 2011. "She said if we're doing this, I had to go the very best place we could find." An Internet search led Bud to Fox Chase Cancer Center and to Elizabeth Plimack, MD, a medical oncologist specializing in the treatment of kidney, bladder, prostate and testicular cancer.

After making the 2-hour drive from his New Jersey home, Bud underwent a battery of tests. Accompanied by his wife, Ann, and their daughter, Nicole Minarik, Dr. Plimack had to deliver the bad news. Bud's cancer had metastasized in his abdominal lymph nodes. "She didn't have to paint me a picture. I was no longer a candidate for surgery," he recalled. Aggressive chemotherapy was his only option. "I could see it pained Dr. Plimack to tell me - a new patient - that I had a 10 to 20 percent chance of recovery. But she was realistic and straightforward with me and so sincerely caring. I appreciated that."

Every CAT Scan came back better than the last one.

Bud started an aggressive course of chemotherapy for the next 5 months, including an overnight dose each month administered at Fox Chase. After the first 2 months, a CAT Scan showed that the cancer had stopped spreading. "I was thrilled, but Dr. Plimack wasn't satisfied. She put me on even stronger chemo." Besides losing his hair, Bud was forced to deal with common side effects of the treatment. But the big guns worked. Every CAT Scan came back better than the last one, until the tumors were undetectable. By June 2010, Bud was eligible for surgery.

"Every single lymph node was negative for cancer."

Fox Chase surgeon David Chen MD, FACS, a urologic oncologist specializing in minimally invasive surgery, led the team that performed the 6 hour da Vinci® robotic surgery, removing Bud's bladder and prostate, all of the potentially abnormal surrounding lymph nodes, as well as an abnormal kidney, through keyhole surgery, needing only a 3-inch incision in his lower abdomen to extract the organs. He spent 10 days in the hospital and remembers his follow up visit with Dr. Chen very well. "He walked in grinning from ear to ear," recalled Bud. "He said 'I have a present for you,' and he gave me all biopsy reports. Every single lymph node was negative for cancer. He was overjoyed, and so was I. Dr. Plimack's treatment had worked. I was given a second chance - more time to spend with my loving family, and an opportunity to see my grandchildren grow up."

When he saw Dr. Plimack a few days later, the mood in the office had come 180 degrees from that initial consult. "She was like a different doctor," he said. "It's a very good feeling when you can hug your doctor and know they sincerely are happy for you. Every single person I dealt with at Fox Chase was a cancer specialist. From the nurses, who are as knowledgeable as doctors, to the technicians who told me what to expect every step of the way, everybody is truly expert and caring."

"The doctors at Fox Chase truly saved my life!"

Life post surgery has its challenges. "I'm doing everything normal, an am adapting to life with a urostomy bag. But besides feeling a little tired, I'm doing just fine. I owe everything to my daughter, who dragged me by the hair to Fox Chase, and to Dr. Plimack and Dr. Chen and everybody at Fox Chase. I wouldn't send anybody in my family anywhere else. The doctors at Fox Chase truly saved my life!"