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Living life after bladder cancer has its challenges. But for Arnie Shachnovitz, maintaining a positive attitude and staying close to other people in the same situation at the Ostomy Support Group at Fox Chase Cancer Center has made all the difference.
In April 2007, when he was 66 years old, Arnie noticed blood in his urine. He made an appointment with a local urologist near his Northeast Philadelphia home, who ran some tests. The results confirmed a diagnosis of bladder cancer. The doctor suggested that Arnie, a retired business owner, get to Fox Chase Cancer Center to meet David Y.T. Chen, MD, FACS, a urologic surgeon who specializes in laparoscopic and minimally invasive surgical treatment of cancers of the genitourinary tract. During their initial meeting in June, Dr. Chen recommended a treatment plan that started with surgery to remove Arnie's bladder. Arnie agreed and the surgery was scheduled for July 26.
“Dr. Chen is very thorough and easy to talk to.”
“Dr. Chen and his staff did a good job explaining the surgery and what I could expect,” recalled Arnie. “Dr. Chen is very thorough and easy to talk to.” It was also a huge help to have his younger sister, Hedda Blau, with him throughout the process. Hedda works as a registered nurse at nearby Abington Memorial Hospital's hospice program.
"Hedda’s support and expertise was invaluable," admitted Arnie. "I am very fortunate to have a loving and supportive family."
The surgery was successful and following recovery, Arnie began the second part of his treatment which was a course of chemotherapy. By January 2008, Arnie was given a clean bill of health by Dr. Chen. Adapting to life with an ostomy was more of a challenge.
The Ostomy Support Group at Fox Chase has been an enormous help.
“I had some problems with leakage in the beginning,” said Arnie, who added that the visiting nurse was a big help. Talking with other people in the same boat on the third Thursday of every month at the Fox Chase Ostomy Support Group has been critical to regaining his normal attitude and lifestyle post surgery.
“We have speakers – Dr. Chen comes to speak to us once a year, usually in October. And every April, we invite vendors who bring new products, in addition to their other lines,” he said. A typical conversation might touch on everything from fashion tips to dressing for comfort and maintaining an active lifestyle. A mix of men and women in their 40s into their 80s attend, with meetings led by Fox Chase social worker, Holly Riggs, LSW.
Arnie is thankful to have his cancer surgery behind him and to be living a normal life again. As to living with an ostomy? “Today, it’s fine – part of my routine, as if I’ve always been this way.”