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In his construction-related job, Don Sechler is a can-do guy who solves problems all day long. But one problem he didn't expect to confront was a diagnosis of bladder cancer. "I'd always been healthy," said Don. "I knew nothing about bladder cancer, or cancer period. It doesn't run in my family. I pretty much thought it was never going to hit me. Then boom."
It all started when Don noticed blood in his urine in September 2010 at the age of 63. Don was living in Camp Hill, PA, about two hours from Philadelphia. His local urologist ran tests that revealed a growth on his bladder. He scheduled surgery to remove two tumors. "I was cheering," recalled Don. "I'm thinking, great, we're good now."
To the contrary, the pathology report following surgery detected more evidence of bladder cancer. The surgeon recommended that Don have his bladder removed. "My doctor is a straight shooter, but he didn't give me a lot of options. He said, 'Here's your choice - take it out, and you'll be peeing in a bag for the rest of your life.'"
"When I asked my doctor about reconstructive surgery, he suggested I see Dr. Kutikov at Fox Chase."
In an ironic coincidence, Don's brother-in-law had been diagnosed with stage IV bladder cancer at the same time. He was scheduled to have bladder reconstruction surgery. "When I asked my doctor about reconstructive surgery, he suggested I see Dr. Kutikov at Fox Chase," shared Don. "That was the single biggest stroke of luck in my life."
Don met Alexander Kutikov MD, attending surgeon on the Fox Chase urologic oncology team. "Dr. Kutikov couldn't have been more frank, honest and professional," Don said. After reviewing Don's test results, Dr. Kutikov was not convinced the cancer was invasive, so he ordered further testing. "He explained the full range of outcomes, from the best to the worst, so I'd be prepared just in case."
Just before Christmas in 2010, Don arrived at Fox Chase for a resection of the bladder to determine the extent of his cancer. "Dr. Kutikov called me as soon as he received the results," said Don. "It was a good news - bad news call. While the cancer had not spread deeper into my tissue, the cells looked abnormal."
A big car racing fan, Don could relate to Dr. Kutikov's next sentence. "He said, 'I can remove the bladder and put in an appliance - that's the Honda of repairs. The other option? 'The Ferrari - a bladder reconstruction.' He felt that I was a good candidate for reconstructive surgery and could handle the recovery process."
"I just can't say enough about everyone at Fox Chase. Everyone I interacted with was unbelievably caring, compassionate and professional."
In early March 2011, Dr. Kutikov performed the delicate surgery to remove the cancerous bladder and used a section of Don's intestine to create a functioning bladder. "I just can't say enough about everyone at Fox Chase. Everyone I interacted with was unbelievably caring, compassionate and professional," said Don. "And Dr. Kutikov was right - it was an arduous process. Everything he told me to expect was exactly what happened."
Don returned to work by the spring 2011 and his new bladder was functioning well. "Dr. Kutikov carefully considered my condition before performing bladder reconstruction surgery. His extraordinary care is uncommon as are the special and talented professionals who surround him at Fox Chase," shared Don.
Two years after surgery, Don lives his life with a changed outlook and a renewed joy. "Dr Kutikov helped me preserve my quality of life that I once took for granted." Today, Don is active in his community and continues to work full time. He and his wife enjoy spending time with their grandkids regularly and are still affiliated with their local Mini Cooper club.
"Meeting Dr. Kutikov was a life changing experience."
"I cannot tell you how much it means to me ... to be able to plan and travel and enjoy life and our loved ones. I no longer take these important things for granted," added Don, who considers himself a fortunate person. "I absolutely made the right decision. I'd urge anyone facing what I faced to get a second opinion. For me, meeting Dr. Kutikov was a life changing experience."