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Ray Jastemski is a betting man. He enjoys traveling to watch horse races. So what are the odds on developing recurring Hodgkin's lymphoma AND a kidney tumor? For Ray, the odds were high.
"My family doctor highly recommended Fox Chase."
Ray was initially diagnosed with stage II Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2003. "I was at my local hospital and wasn't sure where to turn. My family doctor highly recommended Fox Chase," recalled Ray.
During his first visit to Fox Chase, Ray met with medical oncologist Mitchell Smith, MD, PhD, director of the lymphoma service. Dr. Smith specializes in treating patients with hematologic cancers, such as Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Dr. Smith assured me that I'd be okay."
"Dr. Smith assured me that I'd be okay," recalled Ray, who underwent chemotherapy treatment for 3 months. "He explained everything and was very compassionate." Several months later, however, a PET Scan showed the disease had recurred.
Ray explained, "Patients with Hodgkin's lymphoma have a high survival rate. Unfortunately, when it recurs, it is much more aggressive. My wife, Lisa and I were definitely more worried than we were with my first diagnosis."
Dr. Smith prescribed another chemotherapy regimen that was followed by a bone marrow transplant. "I am forever grateful to Dr. Smith who put me on the most effective treatment. My body responded well to the treatment," said Ray.
The Unthinkable: A Second Diagnosis of Cancer
In October 2006, during Ray's treatment, a routine test revealed a cancerous spot on his kidney. "A few years ago, the surgeon would have had to remove my whole kidney. But today surgeons at Fox Chase can treat this type of cancer using laparoscopic surgery. I consider myself lucky to be at Fox Chase - and very lucky to be alive."
Preserving Kidney Function
David Chen, MD, a surgical oncologist specializing in urologic cancers, explained, "With minimally invasive surgery, Ray's tumor was completely removed using several small incisions, the largest being 1 inch, which was the size of the tumor itself. The clear benefits of this type of surgery are it preserved the normal portion of his kidney, and so it is unlikely he will ever have a problem with kidney failure or need dialysis."
Dr. Chen continued, "The recovery for laparoscopic surgery is much quicker and the discomfort much less than for traditional kidney surgery. Ray was a great patient and he told me he felt back to normal and was back to work by the next week."
"Thanks to Dr. Chen, I have two healthy kidneys today instead of one."
"Dr. Chen is fantastic! Thanks to Dr. Chen, I have 2 healthy kidneys today instead of one. My life would have been totally different today had I needed dialysis. There are just a handful of doctors in the country that are highly specialized in minimally invasive laparoscopic and robotic surgery to treat kidney cancer. I'm so fortunate that they're right here in Philadelphia," said Ray.
Ray continued to work at his job in machine design modeling during his treatment. "I've been there for 31 years. I wasn't going to let cancer get in the way of my career," Ray chuckled.
Ray and Lisa are proud parents of 2 sons - Nick, 21, and Rick, 18. "We adopted Rick when he was 10 years old. Being able to change the direction of his life has been extremely gratifying," said Ray. "Our growing family was forced to adjust to change rather quickly. Just one month after Rick joined our family, I was diagnosed with cancer and our lives changed forever."
"If I had looked elsewhere for cancer treatment, I don't think I'd be sitting here today."
Ray wants the world to know about his doctors at Fox Chase. He said, "If I had looked elsewhere for cancer treatment, I don't think I'd be sitting here today. I think the world of Fox Chase physicians, nurses and the rest of the patient care team. I owe my life to them."