Tony Sundermeier

Kidney Cancer Patient Stories

Tony Sundermeier

Tony Sundermeier is the Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Allentown, PA

December is a busy time of year for most people, but especially Tony Sundermeier, who serves as a church pastor. Still, five days after Christmas, Tony, who was 34, was scheduled for a vasectomy. During preadmission testing, doctors discovered microscopic traces of blood in Tony's urine. This was the first sign that 2009 might not be a "Happy New Year."

Tony's urologist, Dr. Donald Anderson, suggested he get a renal ultrasound. Finding microscopic traces of blood in someone's urine is normal. But just to be on the safe side, Dr. Anderson ordered an ultrasound. Tony was grateful for the advice because the ultrasound revealed a mass on his right kidney.

A routine urine test revealed a mass on Tony's kidney. This Pastor calls that "Divine Grace."

A couple of weeks later, Tony had another urine test. Surprisingly, the results showed no traces of blood. Ironically, the first test and the mass on Tony's kidney were unrelated. "Some people call that luck. In my line of work we call that divine grace," admitted Tony. "Little did I know that the pathway of grace which was being laid before me would eventually lead me to Fox Chase Cancer Center and, subsequently, lead to my healing."

Tony Sundermeier

Tony and his wife, Katie, enjoy spending free time traveling with their sons.

"If it was me, I would see Dr. Robert Uzzo at Fox Chase Cancer Center."

Dr. Anderson arranged for Tony to have a CAT scan to learn more about the tumor. At the time, Tony was serving as the Associate Pastor at a large church in West Chester, PA. "I spoke with several doctors in our congregation and shared my scan, which showed a clear nine-centimeter mass on my right kidney," said Tony. A former member of the church, Dr. Stephen Stroup, had recently moved to the medical school at the University of Kentucky as the Chief of Urology. Tony sent him an email asking "Who would you see if you were facing what I am facing?" Dr. Stroup responded, "If it was me, I would see Dr. Robert Uzzo at Fox Chase Cancer Center."

Within five minutes of the email, Tony received a phone call from a family friend, Dr. Robert Beck, Senior Vice President at Fox Chase. "In another moment of grace, I explained to him that Dr. Uzzo was recommended to me and Dr. Beck went on to explain that the reason he called was to suggest that I see Dr. Uzzo," Tony explained. By mid-January, Tony and his wife, Katie, were seated in Dr. Uzzo's office for his first appointment, where he walked them through all of the potential diagnoses and treatments.

"I am unbelievably grateful and thankful for Dr. Uzzo's skills. As far as I am concerned, he truly is a gifted man."

"Dr. Uzzo's confidence, expertise, experience, and thorough explanation regarding my cancer left no doubt in our minds that he was the man for the job," added Tony. "He answered every question with clarity and his disposition truly brought us a sense of peace." Before Tony met with Dr. Uzzo, he had been told his kidney would need to be removed. Dr. Uzzo proved otherwise. He performed the complex nephron-sparing procedure, in which he removed the tumors (diagnosed as clear cell renal cell carcinoma), while salvaging 70 percent of his kidney and preserving kidney function. "I am unbelievably grateful and thankful for Dr. Uzzo's skills. As far as I am concerned, he truly is a gifted man."

Tony's recovery was more challenging than he expected. Dr. Uzzo performed a procedure to insert a temporary stent in the kidney. Tony describes his hospital stays: "The nurses, the doctors, the aides, the technicians, and the chaplain were incredibly attentive to my every need. At points, I felt as if I was the only patient in the hospital. I think that is what makes an experience at Fox Chase so special: when you are facing cancer, no matter the kind, you can find yourself in a pretty dark, lonely, scary, and isolated place. The Fox Chase Community truly was a light to me - a God given gift of grace."

In 2011, Tony is two years post-surgery and likes to consider himself a "Cancer Survivor." Cancer has not slowed down this energetic and inspirational Pastor. He is the Senior Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Allentown, a 2,000 member congregation. In the spring of 2011, Tony earned a Doctorate degree in Church Leadership. The same year, Tony and Katie celebrated their 11th anniversary with their sons, Jonathan, age 8, and Luke, age 3. "We love traveling together, especially to Europe and the Jersey Shore! I keep active by playing basketball and golf. I am grateful to God, Dr. Uzzo and the staff at Fox Chase Cancer Center for treating me so that I can enjoy each day that God has given me!"