Marie Fiss is an independent 77-year-old, a retired school teacher used to doing all of her own housekeeping, shopping and cooking in her neat-as-a-pin South Philadelphia home. So when she lost her appetite, started feeling weak and almost passed out in October 2011, Marie knew something was up. Upon finding that her blood pressure had spiked to a dangerously high level, her son, who happens to be a cardiologist, took her to the emergency room.
A series of tests revealed that Marie had a sizeable mass on her right adrenal gland, believed to be a rare non-malignant growth called Pheochromocytoma, which can cause dangerous hormonal fluctuation and blood pressure to surge. Her son arranged for his mother to see a colleague he knew from his residency days, Colleen Veloski, MD, FACE, at Fox Chase Cancer Center, an endocrinologist specializing in thyroid and parathyroid disorders, adrenal tumors and malignancy related endocrine problems. Marie met Dr. Veloski’s at her appointment on November 7, 2011.
"It took me a month to learn to say Pheochromocytoma."
“Dr. Veloski performed a thorough study and ordered extensive testing. It took weeks to confirm the diagnosis,” said Marie. “She called me every day to check the blood pressure readings I was asked to keep. It took me a month to learn to say Pheochromocytoma.” (pronounced: fe-o-kro-mo-si-to-ma) Dr. Veloski concluded the tumor and adrenal gland would need to be removed.
Dr. Veloski brought surgical oncologist Alexander Kutikov, MD, into the circle of Marie’s treatment team. Dr. Kutikov specializes in treating both malignant and benign tumors. “Dr. Kutikov spent time with me, showing me what my surgery would involve, drawing on a hand-held device,” said Marie. If at all possible, Dr. Kutikov planned to operate laparoscopically, with just four very small incisions. “He explained that would make my recovery easier and faster – but also said that if it became necessary, he is trained to operate with traditional incisions. I left feeling informed and encouraged and knowing I was in the best of hands.”
Marie’s surgery was scheduled for the following month. As a result of Dr. Kutikov's technique using tiny laparoscopic incisions, Marie experienced minimal discomfort, which was much less pain than anticipated. She left Fox Chase on the second day after her surgery. Follow-up pathology results confirmed that she would need no further treatment. “I was very relieved,” shared Marie.
Although she wasn’t up to making her usual Christmas Eve seafood feast, it wasn’t long before Marie was cooking again, stocking the freezer with her grandchildren’s favorite foods.
“I feel very fortunate to have been under the care of Dr. Kutikov and Dr. Veloski.”
“I feel very fortunate to have been under the care of Dr. Kutikov and Dr. Veloski,” she said. “I appreciate their expertise, sincerity and compassion – and their top notch hard work. They are both just tremendous. Everything about Fox Chase was wonderful. They were so well organized and I met so many kind people along the way. I had the best possible result, and I’m so very thankful.”