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Ted Ritter, a mechanical engineer, spent 20 years running his own business. He spent the last 10 administrating a small municipality in South Jersey. During this time, he and his wife, Sheila, raised four children. In January 2010, Ted, who was 66, retired, moving forward to the next chapter of his life which was to include time in Florida, golf, exercise and some part-time work. But life doesn't always cooperate with your plans. Just seven months later, Ted's plans came to a screeching halt when he was diagnosed with bladder cancer.
"Our search for the best cancer hospital took us straight to Fox Chase Cancer Center, Dr. Kutikov, Dr. Plimack and too many wonderful people to name."
After receiving a diagnosis of bladder cancer by his urologist in South Jersey, Ted and Sheila immediately began to research the best doctors to treat bladder cancer. "Our search for the best lead us straight to Fox Chase Cancer Center, Dr. Kutikov, Dr. Plimack and too many wonderful people to name," shared Sheila. Alexander Kutikov, MD, is a urologic surgeon who specializes in bladder reconstruction, called neobladder. Ted and Sheila met with Dr. Kutikov and his colleague, Dr. Elizabeth Plimack, a medical oncologist who also specializes in treating patients with bladder cancer. Together, Ted's team developed a treatment plan.
"Dr. Plimack originally thought I could enroll in a clinical trial, but unfortunately, I was not a candidate," said Ted, who accepted the news, certain that she had another option up her sleeve. "However, she was confident in the standard treatment and was thorough in her care." He underwent a course of chemotherapy in the fall, designed to shrink the tumor. If it was successful, Ted would spend several weeks building up his strength in order to be ready for surgery by the end of the year.
Even with a snowstorm on its way to the area, Dr. Kutikov saw to it that the Ritters could get to Fox Chase for surgery.
"All went according to plan," said Ted, "Other than the blizzard that was hitting Philadelphia on December 27 - the same day I was scheduled for surgery!" Dr. Kutikov was concerned as well, since the Ritters live in South Jersey, over an hour from Philadelphia. "He called us the night before surgery to ask if we needed a place to stay. He was truly worried about us and wanted to make sure we had a four-wheel drive automobile," recalled Sheila. The Ritters left early in the morning and arrived to Fox Chase to meet Dr. Kutikov.
The surgery was successful and Ted's bladder function was preserved.
During the five hour procedure, Dr. Kutikov removed the bladder and reconstructed a new one, called a neobladder, that functions just like a bladder. "Dr. Kutikov was unbelievable," Ted added. "He is diligent and dedicated to his patients. If he wasn't scheduled to be in the hospital, he called from his cell phone. He's one of a kind."
"While Ted was in the hospital, Dr. Kutikov would check in as often as he could," shared Sheila. "At one point he mentioned it was his daughter's first birthday and he had to head home. He was genuinely concerned about how Ted would be without him. We knew we were in good hands and told Dr. K. to hurry to the party!"
After recovering from surgery, Ted developed two setbacks. He is grateful to his wife for picking up on the symptoms, as he admittedly was ignoring them. "She is truly my guardian angel. I developed an infection which left me dehydrated. As a result, my kidneys stopped working properly. Both times, she called Fox Chase and they saw me immediately," Ted explained. "Even though we live in New Jersey, Fox Chase is just a phone call away."
Following treatment, Ted spent several months in Florida with one purpose in mind - to look healthy. "My plan was to exercise, re-gain some of the weight I lost and get a nice tan," shared Ted. "I didn't want people to see me and immediately ask how I was. I wanted them to take one look and say 'Wow, you look great. You must be doing well.'"
"I am cured ... thank you, Fox Chase!!"
"Sheila and I appreciate Dr. Kutikov, Dr. Plimack and the Fox Chase team of associates, nurses and staff for the greatest care in the world," shared Ted. After making a full recovery from cancer and some expected set-backs, he said, "I am cured ... thank you, Fox Chase!!"