After working for 47 years as a lineman with a power company, Gary Balon is enjoying retirement this summer by working part time as a golf course ranger and spending time with his family, including two grandchildren.
If you saw him on the course, it would be hard to tell that less than a year ago, he was facing the health challenge of his lifetime—a diagnosis of kidney cancer that required a complex, robot-assisted surgery at CentraState Medical Center.
“It came as a total surprise because there is no history of cancer in my family,” says Gary, a 65-year-old South Amboy resident. “I was depressed, but I wanted to do everything I could to fight it.”
Gary’s kidney cancer was diagnosed after blood in his urine and pain and swelling in his ankles sent him to the hospital last July. He was referred to Emad Rizkala, MD, a board-certified and fellowship-trained urologist who is part of CentraState’s team of surgeons performing robotic procedures with the da Vinci® Surgical System.
To treat his cancer, Dr. Rizkala removed Gary’s left kidney and ureter, the narrow tube that connects the kidney to the bladder. Traditionally, they had to be removed in two steps, with separate incisions that often included a large incision in the abdomen. With robotic surgery, the surgeon has exceptional control, range of motion, and visibility, allowing the procedure to be done in a single step with fewer, smaller incisions.
“Performing this procedure robotically reduces the risk of bleeding and other complications, and can shorten a patient’s hospital stay and overall recovery time,” Dr. Rizkala says. “CentraState was one of the first hospitals in the region to offer this single-step procedure for kidney cancer, and Gary’s surgery went very smoothly.”
Gary had his procedure on a Thursday and was home by Saturday night with, as he says, “just four little cuts” where the surgery was performed. Because the cancer had moved from the lining into the body of his kidney, he also had to undergo a round of chemotherapy during the winter to protect against the possibility that microscopic cancer cells had spread. Follow-up tests have not shown any cancer recurrence and his remaining kidney is healthy, Dr. Rizkala says.
“I feel good,” Gary says. “I talked to someone who had a kidney removed with a large incision, and the recovery was much longer. Robotic surgery is the greatest thing. I had never heard about it until I talked to Dr. Rizkala. Now, I would recommend it to anyone.”
For more information about CentraState’s robotic kidney surgical services, call our Physician Finder at 866-CENTRA7. To learn more about the cancer services provided at CentraState, call 855-411-CANCER (855-411-2262).