Joe Riehs

Kidney Cancer Patient Stories

Joe Riehs

Working high above the Delaware River for the Port Authority is where Joe Riehs spends much of his time. He is a maintenance technician on the Betsy Ross Bridge, connecting Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It was on that bridge that Joe received the call from his doctor with the news. There was an 85% chance that the tumor found on Joe's kidney was cancerous.

Several months earlier, Joe went to his primary care doctor complaining of stomach pain and heartburn. His doctor prescribed medication to alleviate Joe's heartburn. Although it worked, the stomach pain continued. Finally, his urologist ordered an ultrasound, which revealed a suspicious mass on Joe's kidney.

Although his doctor recommended surgical removal of the entire kidney, Joe disagreed. "Surgery to remove my kidney was not an acceptable option," Joe said. "I called over to Fox Chase Cancer Center, which is about 5 blocks from my house, and made an appointment."

"My wife, who is a nurse, was very impressed with everything she heard."

Joe and his wife, consulted with Dr. Robert Uzzo, a urologic surgeon who specializes in kidney surgery. "My wife, who is a nurse, was very impressed with everything she heard. We immediately knew I was in the right hands at the right place."

Joe Riehs

Dr. Uzzo and his team offer minimally invasive (laparoscopic and robotic) surgery only if it is the most effective method to reach the tumor. Dr. Uzzo and his team have more expereince in robotic partial nephrectomies than most surgeons around the world. In Joe's case, open surgery was recommended because of the location, depth and complexity of the tumor. Dr. Uzzo performed a partial nephrectomy, in which he was able to remove the tumor and reconstruct the kidney in order to preserve its function.

"If I had listened to the first doctor, I might only have one kidney left."

"I didn't care how he removed the tumor, as long as he could save my kidney. If I had listened to the first doctor, I might only have one kidney left," Joe shared. "Dr. Uzzo is world-class. I had heard he is one of the top kidney surgeons in the country and now I know why - he saved 90% my kidney and preserved the quality of my life."

"Dr. Uzzo is phenomenal."

Joe explained, "Dr. Uzzo is phenomenal. I have heard that many brilliant surgeons have no bedside manner to speak of. I didn't find that to be the case at Fox Chase. Dr. Uzzo is an extremely skilled surgeon and was fantastic to talk to."

Joe shared that the nursing care before and after his procedure was terrific. "Sue Burke, Dr. Uzzo's nurse, is absolutely wonderful to work with." He tells his friends, "If you learn you might have cancer, don't go anywhere but Fox Chase. The nurses are awesome. They treat you like family. Rita Dougherty, a nurse on the 3rd floor, is sharp. She was on top of every one of my concerns. In fact, Rita would answer my questions even before I asked them!"

"Life is good! I'm feeling great thanks to the docs at Fox Chase."

Joe has returned to work on the bridge and is back on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. "Life is good! I'm feeling great thanks to the docs at Fox Chase."