John Roley

Kidney Cancer Patient Stories

da VinciĀ® Robotic-Assisted Surgery
John and Lucy Roley

John and his wife, Lucy, are big fans of ballroom dancing.

 

Kidney Preservation through Minimally Invasive Surgery

The vast majority of patients with kidney cancer are candidates for kidney preservation and most kidney cancer operations can be done using new technologies such as laparoscopy or robotics.

I see so many patients every week who are advised to either have their entire kidney removed, which puts them at risk for future dialysis, or that their surgery cannot be done laparoscopically or robotically.

My first goal for all patients with kidney cancer is to cure them from their disease. Most of the time this can be done by preserving the kidney, even when the tumor is large or in a difficult location.

If a patient is advised to have their entire kidney removed, their first question to the doctor should be 'why can't my kidney be saved?'

My second goal is to do as much kidney surgery as possible with the least amount of surgical trauma and the fastest recovery for the patient. People have very busy lives and they want to get back on their feet as soon as possible.

In the vast majority of localized kidney cancers, the tumor can be cured and the kidney can be saved, usually using a minimally invasive technique. Patients should challenge their doctors to achieve these goals or refer them to someone experienced in doing so.

Dr. Robert Uzzo, surgical oncologist

Kidney Cancer - da Vinci® Robotic-Assisted Surgery

In the fall of 2007, John Roley went to his local emergency room complaining of severe stomach pain. He figured the pain was caused by a stomach virus. The doctors performed several tests, including a CAT Scan, which showed something suspicious on both kidneys.

A follow-up MRI revealed cancerous masses on both kidneys.

"What a shock!" said John, recalling how he reacted. "Your brain fails to function for a while. My doctor explained that I needed 2 surgeries (1 for each kidney), which involved a large incision around my body. The recovery from each surgery would be about 6-8 weeks and I would be at risk for infection."

John and his longtime friend Lucy, whom he has since married, were both upset by the news. Still, John was prepared to go ahead with the 2 operations.

Getting a Second Opinion with Top Kidney Surgeon

The following day Lucy said, "Wait a minute, let's get a second opinion." John agreed. His doctor referred John to one of the top kidney surgeons in the country.

John Roley

Preserving Function with Robotic Surgery

"Within a few days, I met with Dr. Robert Uzzo at Fox Chase Cancer Center. He explained all of my options," said John. After reviewing John's test results, Dr. Uzzo recommended removing the cancer on each kidney using da Vinci® robotic surgery. As with the other traditional approach, he would still undergo 2 separate procedures. However, robotic surgery allowed Dr. Uzzo the ability to preserve the function of John's kidneys, and, more importantly, eliminate the need for dialysis.

The incisions involved in robotic surgery are tiny. Compared to the traditional, open surgery the first doctor had suggested, Dr. Uzzo's technique would leave very little scarring with almost no bleeding and his hospitalization and recovery would be less than half that of an open surgical approach. To be a candidate for robotic surgery, patients have to be in good health. At the age of 76, John got medical clearance from his cardiologist, who agreed that he would be a perfect candidate for robotic surgery.

"Dr. Uzzo did a masterful job . . . and I don't need dialysis!"

Dr. Uzzo performed a robotic partial nephrectomy (removal of the cancerous growth on the kidney with a small rim of normal kidney tissue around the edges) on his left kidney in March 2008, and on the right less than 3 months later. For each surgery, John only spent 2 nights in the hospital. To John, that was "nothing less than miraculous and unbelievable. I was told to get up and walk, walk, walk, which I did . . . and lots and lots of breathing exercises. I have both my team of doctors to thank. Dr. Uzzo did a masterful job of removing the cancerous tumors, while saving over 90% of each kidney. And I don't need dialysis!"

"The fact that I could drive and return to work so fast was just fantastic."

Work is important to John, who is part owner of a fiberglass company, and he was happy to return quickly. "Dr. Uzzo is an extremely talented surgeon," John said. "I had no complications and healed quickly."

"Lucy encouraged me to get up and take long walks with her," John added. "Her love and support played an important role in my recovery."

"I also want to give accolades to the other doctors and nurses at Fox Chase, who were simply great in taking care of me and helping me to recover so quickly," John said.

John Roley

John and his wife Lucy.

In his spare time, John enjoys ballroom dancing and workouts in his basement gym. "Within weeks of surgery, Lucy and I went back to ballroom dancing once or twice a week. We also went bowling. I was able to do anything I wanted, except lifting heavy objects," he explained.

After the surgery, Dr. Uzzo ordered another set of MRIs, which showed that the kidneys were functioning well, fully healed, and without any evidence of cancer. John was considered "clean."

In the early fall of 2008, just 3 months after treatment, John and Lucy traveled to Florida for a week of ballroom dancing, workouts at the gym, swimming and walking on the beach. Today, John considers himself to be in excellent physical condition.

John would like to take this opportunity to "thank all of you - including my fellow church-goers and students - who prayed for me during my surgeries. I believe in the power of prayer, which strengthens us during difficult times."

"I am very grateful to everyone who found the problem, fixed the problem and restored me to excellent health."

John summed up his treatment at Fox Chase: "I am very grateful to everyone who found the problem, fixed the problem and restored me to excellent health. Thanks to all of you. I am forever grateful. God bless you. May you help others as you have helped me."