The ACI Luncheon: A Gold Medal Event


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    Grateful Patients

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    Accordion Tabs
     
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    Tab Heading:

     Mike Cashwell

    Content:

    Mike CashwellMike Cashwell has been selling high-end automobiles for almost two decades now. It’s a demanding job, and he’s clearly good at it. The native Savannahian and his wife of 12 years have two daughters, ages 6 and 9. With a busy career and a young family, Mike simply didn’t have time to be sick. But cancer is no respecter of schedules.

    Mike thought he had a kidney stone when he experienced pain that first sent him to the emergency department two and a half years ago. Turns out, it was diverticulitis, an inflammation of little pouches that can form in the intestines. And, to top it all off, he found out he was diabetic. But worse news was ahead.

    Armed with the diverticulitis diagnosis, Mike agreed to a surgery date in August. “I went on with life being uncomfortable, losing more and more weight,” he recalls. The month before that surgery date, he met with his regular physician – who took one look at him and consulted with Alan Lord, M.D., a colorectal surgeon with Memorial University Surgeons. The surgical schedule was promptly moved up to that Friday instead of the next month.

    “What started out predicted to be two hours of surgery became eight and a half. They saw the cancer in a post-op scan, a low-grade stage 2 in the colon,” Mike said.

    Mike went through chemotherapy and radiation treatment at the Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute at Memorial University Medical Center before getting the coveted news he was cancer-free. He successfully lobbied for a stepped-up, aggressive treatment schedule so he could get back to work as soon as possible.

    I didn’t lose weight and I never lost my hair,” he noted. But the chemotherapy left its mark, in more ways than just defeating his cancer. He has to watch his energy levels because he tires more easily these days, and he occasionally has issues with his skin itching – a small price to pay for being cancer free, he says.

    The funny thing – not funny ha-ha, but funny odd – is that that severe bout of diverticulitis might be what ended up saving Mike’s life. He hadn’t hit his mid-40s at the time of his diagnosis with a stage 2 cancer, while the American Cancer Society’s guidelines don’t call for screening colonoscopies until a person hits the age of 50.

    Mike is one of four grateful patients whose stories will be highlighted during the ACI Luncheon: A Gold Medal Event on December 8 at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center. Both his wife and his mother will join him to hear Shannon Miller, one of America’s most decorated Olympic gymnasts, discuss her inspiring triumph over ovarian cancer.

     

    Tab header and content

    Tab Heading:

     Gary Exley

    Content:

    Sailing Through the Storm: Tybee Resident Shares His Cancer Experience

    Gary ExleyWhen Hurricane Matthew roared up the coast, it trashed the walkway Gary Exley uses to get to his beloved dock on Tybee Island. But Exley’s taking it all in stride. After all, he’s weathered a much more personal storm in recent years. 

    In September 2014, Exley noticed a small lump on the left side of his neck. His throat wasn’t bothering him, he didn’t have a cough, and the lump didn’t hurt, so he left it alone. But it didn’t go away.

    That November, Exley asked his primary care doctor about the lump. He was referred to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist who did a biopsy to test tissue in the lump. A few days later, Exley received devastating news.

    “They said I had squamous cell cancer in my lymph node. I kept thinking, ‘not me. I’m healthy. I’m immune to this sort of thing,’” said Exley.

    Exley began researching his options online. He conferred with his daughters, Aimie and Ashlie, who are both nurses. And he discussed it with his long-time friend, Janice. His ENT was recommending exploratory surgery to see how extensive the cancer was. But before he went any further, Exley wanted a second opinion. That’s when he was referred to Guy Petruzzelli, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, an otolaryngologist and the leader of the head and neck surgery program at the Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute (ACI) at Memorial University Medical Center. Exley called Petruzzelli’s office and left a message. That evening, Petruzzelli called him back on his cell phone and arranged to see him the very next day.

    At the appointment, Petruzzelli slid a small scope through Exley’s nostril, and soon Exley was looking right at the enemy.

    “A picture is worth a thousand words. Dr. Petruzzelli showed me my tonsil area on a monitor. It was covered with something that looked like tiny yellow fish eggs or beads,” said Exley. He was looking at primary squamous cell cancer that had started below his tonsil on the side wall of his throat. The cancer had spread to the lymph node in Exley’s neck. “He told me what he recommended and answered every question I had. Right then, I knew Dr. ‘P’ was going to be my doctor.”

    That evening, Exley again turned to his support team, Aimie, Ashlie, and Janice, for advice. They all agreed that he should follow Petruzzelli’s recommendations and plan of care. Two days later, on January 16, 2015, Exley underwent a five-hour surgery at Memorial University Medical Center.

    Petruzzelli performed a neck dissection. He exposed the neck with an incision that began in the hairline behind the ear and went across the collarbone to the breastbone. He removed all of the cancer in the neck, but preserved the nerves, blood vessels, and muscles. The primary tumor in Exley’s throat was removed through his mouth with the assistance of a robotic surgical device. With the 3D visualization and enhanced manipulation of the robotic instruments, Petruzzelli could precisely remove the tumor without harming the surrounding healthy tissue, meaning Exley’s voice and appearance would be normal after surgery.

    Exley spent four days in the hospital recovering. When he went home, he had pain in his throat and he knew eating would be a challenge. Exley had decided early on that he would do whatever he could to stay healthy and strong throughout his treatment. Failure to eat would weaken his body and possibly result in a feeding tube, so he forced himself to eat soft foods. He researched meal replacement drinks to learn which ones had the most nutrients in a small quantity. This allowed him to drink less and still get adequate nutrition. He lost 12 pounds after surgery, but soon gained it back by following a healthy diet.

    Exley also maintained a positive attitude. He spent plenty of time sitting peacefully on his dock. And, he says his three grandchildren were wonderful therapy. They live out of state, but he visits with them online through Skype and FaceTime. After he recovered from surgery, Exley moved on to the next phase of his treatment – 33 radiation treatments and multiple rounds of chemotherapy. He was so impressed with Petruzzelli and his surgical outcome that he chose to have all of his treatment at the ACI. 

    Exley has now been cancer-free for two years, and he still radiates the same positive attitude that carried him through his treatment.

    “I just turned 70,” he said. “I’ve always been an active person, but 70 bothered me – that sounds old! But it’s just a number, and I can still do anything I want.”

    And what he wants to do now is rebuild that dock walkway, just like he rebuilt his health.

    Learn more about the head and neck surgery program at the ACI.

     

    Tab header and content

    Tab Heading:

     Libby Malphrus

    Content:

    Libby MalphrusWhen Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller takes the podium December 8 at the ACI Luncheon: A Gold Medal Event, Libby Malphrus will be in the audience as one of the event’s grateful patients. Miller’s story of defeating ovarian cancer will hold particular meaning for Malphrus, who fought and won her own battle against the disease. She plans to bring her 10-year-old daughter – a gymnastics enthusiast herself – to the program.

    It was October 2010, and 33-year-old Libby Malphrus was juggling more than most people can handle. She was working full time as a genetic counselor for a perinatal practice, parenting a 4-year-old, balancing the demands of marriage and home life, and – perhaps most overwhelming – helping her mother go through treatment for primary peritoneal cancer. The last thing she needed was the phone call from her gynecologist’s office stating that her recent Pap test results were abnormal.

    “I had had normal Pap results for 17 years. This was the first time I had ever gotten a call back. The timing was awful,” said Malphrus. The family was already reeling from her mother’s battle with a difficult gynecologic cancer, and now Malphrus realized that she could be facing the same thing.

    She scheduled a colposcopy procedure with her gynecologist, Kimberly Crute, M.D. During the procedure, her doctor examined her cervix with a special magnifying lens. Crute did not see any obvious warning signs, but she sent a tissue sample for further testing. The results indicated highly abnormal and potentially cancerous cells. Crute then performed a loop electrosurgical excision procedure, also known as LEEP. This procedure uses low energy current and a wire loop to remove abnormal cells from the cervix. In many cases, the LEEP can remove all abnormal cells before they spread. Malphrus underwent her LEEP on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The results stunned her – she had invasive cervical cancer.

    “I had no symptoms when I was diagnosed. I was a runner. I exercised four or five times a week. A month earlier, you would have never convinced me that I had cancer,” said Malphrus.

    She met with James Burke, M.D., a gynecologic oncologist at ACI – Surgical Associates. Burke explained all of Malphrus’ options. She could undergo radiation therapy in an attempt to kill the cancerous cells, or she could remove the cancer surgically through a radical hysterectomy.

    “I was already very worried because of my mother’s history. I knew that a radical hysterectomy would dramatically lower my risk of future cancer. But at the same time, it’s very difficult to have that choice – the choice to have more children – taken away from you,” said Malphrus. In the end, she and her husband decided on the radical hysterectomy.

    “I had one healthy child and I wanted to be cancer-free. I just didn’t want to risk it,” said Malphrus.
    She then learned that she could be the first person at Memorial to have a hysterectomy with the new da Vinci Si robotic surgery system. The da Vinci Si is the very latest robotic surgical tool, and Memorial was the first in the region to offer the new technology. Malphrus researched the system extensively, spoke with Burke, and spoke with colleagues in other parts of the country. She determined that minimally invasive surgery with the da Vinci Si was the best choice for her.

    “I had a full-time job and a 4-year-old. I needed to get in and out quickly. I trusted Dr. Burke’s surgical skills and I knew it was the fastest and safest way to be cancer free,” said Malphrus.

    On January 4, 2011, Malphrus had surgery to remove the top third of her vagina, several lymph nodes, her ovaries, and her uterus. It was a very involved procedure that lasted nearly five hours. She had five small incisions that were about half an inch long and barely noticeable.

    Her first night in the recovery room was difficult, but by the next day, Malphrus was able to eat a regular lunch and walk on her own. She had hoped to go home that same day. However, she had a swollen bruise near one of her incisions that her caregivers wanted to monitor. The bruise improved and on January 6, just two days after major surgery, Malphrus went home to begin recovering.

    She was surprised at how quickly her body healed. Within a week, she was able to drive. Within two weeks, the pain and swelling were gone and she felt very good. She did experience a blood clot in her right leg about 11 days after surgery. She returned to the hospital and was prescribed a regimen of blood thinners to break up the clot. That proved to be only a minor hiccup for Malphrus, and within four weeks she returned to work.

    “Women used to be out of work for six to eight weeks following a hysterectomy. In fact, giving birth required a longer recovery than this,” said Malphrus.

    Perhaps the best news of all was that pathology reports showed that the cancer had not spread to any other parts of her body. She is cancer free today. Shortly after Malphrus returned to work, her mother had her last chemotherapy treatment. Both women looked forward to a great year.

    Today, Malphrus is using her experience with cervical cancer to help other others. She encourages parents to vaccinate their daughters and sons with the HPV vaccine that can prevent certain cancers. She also encourages women to get a Pap exam every year, even if they’ve received years of “normal” results. To promote her message and help raise funds for gynecological cancer research, Malphrus started a website and Facebook page called “Save the Hoo Hahs” (helpthehoohahs.com). Her goal is to help find a cure, so that her daughter will never have to face the same frightening diagnosis.

     

    Tab header and content

    Tab Heading:

     Vivian Palefsky

    Content:

    Landings Woman Among Honorees at ACI Luncheon: A Gold Medal Event

    Vivian PalefskyHelping cancer patients has been Vivian Palefsky’s life’s work. She has 26 years as a registered nurse, holds a master’s degree in nursing, and has earned certification in oncology (cancer) nursing. But that’s not why she’ll be front and center December 8 when the Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute (ACI) at Memorial University Medical Center presents the ACI Luncheon: A Gold Medal Event featuring Olympian Shannon Miller.

    Vivian is one of four grateful ACI patients who will share their stories at the upcoming event, and she has very personal reasons for doing so. The da Vinci robotic surgical system played an important role in her successful treatment, and adding a second one of these complex devices to Memorial’s high-tech inventory is one of the projects that the December event will help fund. Guests at the ACI Luncheon: A Gold Medal Event will have the opportunity to hear Shannon Miller, one of America’s most decorated Olympic gymnasts, discuss her successful battle with ovarian cancer.

    Vivian’s own battle involved kidney cancer, and she found out she had it almost by accident. She had a CT of the chest for a persistent cough, with no other physical symptoms or high-risk factors for a lung disease. She then went to her primary care physician and was initially relieved when she received the results. “There was no lung cancer, nothing like that, but sort of as a side note, there was mention that I had a lesion on my left kidney. When I reviewed it with my primary care doctor, everyone was relieved there was no lung cancer but hearing the words ‘kidney lesion’ was greatly concerning” she said.

    Concerning, indeed: it turned out to be kidney cancer, and in one of the most difficult places to reach in the body. With traditional surgery, Vivian knew she faced a massive incision from her navel around to her back, and a long recovery time too. But with the da Vinci surgical system, she was able to have the surgery with decreased recovery time, smaller risk of infection, and less blood loss. Her surgeon was able to remove the tumor and leave the rest of the kidney intact. And Vivian was left with the scars from six small incisions, which she now jokingly refers to as her “shark bites.”

    “I didn’t think about it prior to needing it, but when I needed it, the da Vinci equipment was there. As more and more surgeries are done with it, we need an additional one. I want to be part of that,” Vivian said.

    Vivian’s story will be shared at the ACI Luncheon: A Gold Medal Event, along with that of Mike Cashwell, Gary Exley, and Libby Malphrus, a fellow Memorial Team Member.

     

     

    Mike CashwellMike Cashwell has been selling high-end automobiles for almost two decades now. It’s a demanding job, and he’s clearly good at it. The native Savannahian and his wife of 12 years have two daughters, ages 6 and 9. With a busy career and a young family, Mike simply didn’t have time to be sick. But cancer is no respecter of schedules.

    Mike thought he had a kidney stone when he experienced pain that first sent him to the emergency department two and a half years ago. Turns out, it was diverticulitis, an inflammation of little pouches that can form in the intestines. And, to top it all off, he found out he was diabetic. But worse news was ahead.

    Armed with the diverticulitis diagnosis, Mike agreed to a surgery date in August. “I went on with life being uncomfortable, losing more and more weight,” he recalls. The month before that surgery date, he met with his regular physician – who took one look at him and consulted with Alan Lord, M.D., a colorectal surgeon with Memorial University Surgeons. The surgical schedule was promptly moved up to that Friday instead of the next month.

    “What started out predicted to be two hours of surgery became eight and a half. They saw the cancer in a post-op scan, a low-grade stage 2 in the colon,” Mike said.

    Mike went through chemotherapy and radiation treatment at the Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute at Memorial University Medical Center before getting the coveted news he was cancer-free. He successfully lobbied for a stepped-up, aggressive treatment schedule so he could get back to work as soon as possible.

    I didn’t lose weight and I never lost my hair,” he noted. But the chemotherapy left its mark, in more ways than just defeating his cancer. He has to watch his energy levels because he tires more easily these days, and he occasionally has issues with his skin itching – a small price to pay for being cancer free, he says.

    The funny thing – not funny ha-ha, but funny odd – is that that severe bout of diverticulitis might be what ended up saving Mike’s life. He hadn’t hit his mid-40s at the time of his diagnosis with a stage 2 cancer, while the American Cancer Society’s guidelines don’t call for screening colonoscopies until a person hits the age of 50.

    Mike is one of four grateful patients whose stories will be highlighted during the ACI Luncheon: A Gold Medal Event on December 8 at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center. Both his wife and his mother will join him to hear Shannon Miller, one of America’s most decorated Olympic gymnasts, discuss her inspiring triumph over ovarian cancer.

    Sailing Through the Storm: Tybee Resident Shares His Cancer Experience

    Gary ExleyWhen Hurricane Matthew roared up the coast, it trashed the walkway Gary Exley uses to get to his beloved dock on Tybee Island. But Exley’s taking it all in stride. After all, he’s weathered a much more personal storm in recent years. 

    In September 2014, Exley noticed a small lump on the left side of his neck. His throat wasn’t bothering him, he didn’t have a cough, and the lump didn’t hurt, so he left it alone. But it didn’t go away.

    That November, Exley asked his primary care doctor about the lump. He was referred to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist who did a biopsy to test tissue in the lump. A few days later, Exley received devastating news.

    “They said I had squamous cell cancer in my lymph node. I kept thinking, ‘not me. I’m healthy. I’m immune to this sort of thing,’” said Exley.

    Exley began researching his options online. He conferred with his daughters, Aimie and Ashlie, who are both nurses. And he discussed it with his long-time friend, Janice. His ENT was recommending exploratory surgery to see how extensive the cancer was. But before he went any further, Exley wanted a second opinion. That’s when he was referred to Guy Petruzzelli, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, an otolaryngologist and the leader of the head and neck surgery program at the Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute (ACI) at Memorial University Medical Center. Exley called Petruzzelli’s office and left a message. That evening, Petruzzelli called him back on his cell phone and arranged to see him the very next day.

    At the appointment, Petruzzelli slid a small scope through Exley’s nostril, and soon Exley was looking right at the enemy.

    “A picture is worth a thousand words. Dr. Petruzzelli showed me my tonsil area on a monitor. It was covered with something that looked like tiny yellow fish eggs or beads,” said Exley. He was looking at primary squamous cell cancer that had started below his tonsil on the side wall of his throat. The cancer had spread to the lymph node in Exley’s neck. “He told me what he recommended and answered every question I had. Right then, I knew Dr. ‘P’ was going to be my doctor.”

    That evening, Exley again turned to his support team, Aimie, Ashlie, and Janice, for advice. They all agreed that he should follow Petruzzelli’s recommendations and plan of care. Two days later, on January 16, 2015, Exley underwent a five-hour surgery at Memorial University Medical Center.

    Petruzzelli performed a neck dissection. He exposed the neck with an incision that began in the hairline behind the ear and went across the collarbone to the breastbone. He removed all of the cancer in the neck, but preserved the nerves, blood vessels, and muscles. The primary tumor in Exley’s throat was removed through his mouth with the assistance of a robotic surgical device. With the 3D visualization and enhanced manipulation of the robotic instruments, Petruzzelli could precisely remove the tumor without harming the surrounding healthy tissue, meaning Exley’s voice and appearance would be normal after surgery.

    Exley spent four days in the hospital recovering. When he went home, he had pain in his throat and he knew eating would be a challenge. Exley had decided early on that he would do whatever he could to stay healthy and strong throughout his treatment. Failure to eat would weaken his body and possibly result in a feeding tube, so he forced himself to eat soft foods. He researched meal replacement drinks to learn which ones had the most nutrients in a small quantity. This allowed him to drink less and still get adequate nutrition. He lost 12 pounds after surgery, but soon gained it back by following a healthy diet.

    Exley also maintained a positive attitude. He spent plenty of time sitting peacefully on his dock. And, he says his three grandchildren were wonderful therapy. They live out of state, but he visits with them online through Skype and FaceTime. After he recovered from surgery, Exley moved on to the next phase of his treatment – 33 radiation treatments and multiple rounds of chemotherapy. He was so impressed with Petruzzelli and his surgical outcome that he chose to have all of his treatment at the ACI. 

    Exley has now been cancer-free for two years, and he still radiates the same positive attitude that carried him through his treatment.

    “I just turned 70,” he said. “I’ve always been an active person, but 70 bothered me – that sounds old! But it’s just a number, and I can still do anything I want.”

    And what he wants to do now is rebuild that dock walkway, just like he rebuilt his health.

    Learn more about the head and neck surgery program at the ACI.

    Libby MalphrusWhen Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller takes the podium December 8 at the ACI Luncheon: A Gold Medal Event, Libby Malphrus will be in the audience as one of the event’s grateful patients. Miller’s story of defeating ovarian cancer will hold particular meaning for Malphrus, who fought and won her own battle against the disease. She plans to bring her 10-year-old daughter – a gymnastics enthusiast herself – to the program.

    It was October 2010, and 33-year-old Libby Malphrus was juggling more than most people can handle. She was working full time as a genetic counselor for a perinatal practice, parenting a 4-year-old, balancing the demands of marriage and home life, and – perhaps most overwhelming – helping her mother go through treatment for primary peritoneal cancer. The last thing she needed was the phone call from her gynecologist’s office stating that her recent Pap test results were abnormal.

    “I had had normal Pap results for 17 years. This was the first time I had ever gotten a call back. The timing was awful,” said Malphrus. The family was already reeling from her mother’s battle with a difficult gynecologic cancer, and now Malphrus realized that she could be facing the same thing.

    She scheduled a colposcopy procedure with her gynecologist, Kimberly Crute, M.D. During the procedure, her doctor examined her cervix with a special magnifying lens. Crute did not see any obvious warning signs, but she sent a tissue sample for further testing. The results indicated highly abnormal and potentially cancerous cells. Crute then performed a loop electrosurgical excision procedure, also known as LEEP. This procedure uses low energy current and a wire loop to remove abnormal cells from the cervix. In many cases, the LEEP can remove all abnormal cells before they spread. Malphrus underwent her LEEP on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The results stunned her – she had invasive cervical cancer.

    “I had no symptoms when I was diagnosed. I was a runner. I exercised four or five times a week. A month earlier, you would have never convinced me that I had cancer,” said Malphrus.

    She met with James Burke, M.D., a gynecologic oncologist at ACI – Surgical Associates. Burke explained all of Malphrus’ options. She could undergo radiation therapy in an attempt to kill the cancerous cells, or she could remove the cancer surgically through a radical hysterectomy.

    “I was already very worried because of my mother’s history. I knew that a radical hysterectomy would dramatically lower my risk of future cancer. But at the same time, it’s very difficult to have that choice – the choice to have more children – taken away from you,” said Malphrus. In the end, she and her husband decided on the radical hysterectomy.

    “I had one healthy child and I wanted to be cancer-free. I just didn’t want to risk it,” said Malphrus.
    She then learned that she could be the first person at Memorial to have a hysterectomy with the new da Vinci Si robotic surgery system. The da Vinci Si is the very latest robotic surgical tool, and Memorial was the first in the region to offer the new technology. Malphrus researched the system extensively, spoke with Burke, and spoke with colleagues in other parts of the country. She determined that minimally invasive surgery with the da Vinci Si was the best choice for her.

    “I had a full-time job and a 4-year-old. I needed to get in and out quickly. I trusted Dr. Burke’s surgical skills and I knew it was the fastest and safest way to be cancer free,” said Malphrus.

    On January 4, 2011, Malphrus had surgery to remove the top third of her vagina, several lymph nodes, her ovaries, and her uterus. It was a very involved procedure that lasted nearly five hours. She had five small incisions that were about half an inch long and barely noticeable.

    Her first night in the recovery room was difficult, but by the next day, Malphrus was able to eat a regular lunch and walk on her own. She had hoped to go home that same day. However, she had a swollen bruise near one of her incisions that her caregivers wanted to monitor. The bruise improved and on January 6, just two days after major surgery, Malphrus went home to begin recovering.

    She was surprised at how quickly her body healed. Within a week, she was able to drive. Within two weeks, the pain and swelling were gone and she felt very good. She did experience a blood clot in her right leg about 11 days after surgery. She returned to the hospital and was prescribed a regimen of blood thinners to break up the clot. That proved to be only a minor hiccup for Malphrus, and within four weeks she returned to work.

    “Women used to be out of work for six to eight weeks following a hysterectomy. In fact, giving birth required a longer recovery than this,” said Malphrus.

    Perhaps the best news of all was that pathology reports showed that the cancer had not spread to any other parts of her body. She is cancer free today. Shortly after Malphrus returned to work, her mother had her last chemotherapy treatment. Both women looked forward to a great year.

    Today, Malphrus is using her experience with cervical cancer to help other others. She encourages parents to vaccinate their daughters and sons with the HPV vaccine that can prevent certain cancers. She also encourages women to get a Pap exam every year, even if they’ve received years of “normal” results. To promote her message and help raise funds for gynecological cancer research, Malphrus started a website and Facebook page called “Save the Hoo Hahs” (helpthehoohahs.com). Her goal is to help find a cure, so that her daughter will never have to face the same frightening diagnosis.

    Landings Woman Among Honorees at ACI Luncheon: A Gold Medal Event

    Vivian PalefskyHelping cancer patients has been Vivian Palefsky’s life’s work. She has 26 years as a registered nurse, holds a master’s degree in nursing, and has earned certification in oncology (cancer) nursing. But that’s not why she’ll be front and center December 8 when the Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute (ACI) at Memorial University Medical Center presents the ACI Luncheon: A Gold Medal Event featuring Olympian Shannon Miller.

    Vivian is one of four grateful ACI patients who will share their stories at the upcoming event, and she has very personal reasons for doing so. The da Vinci robotic surgical system played an important role in her successful treatment, and adding a second one of these complex devices to Memorial’s high-tech inventory is one of the projects that the December event will help fund. Guests at the ACI Luncheon: A Gold Medal Event will have the opportunity to hear Shannon Miller, one of America’s most decorated Olympic gymnasts, discuss her successful battle with ovarian cancer.

    Vivian’s own battle involved kidney cancer, and she found out she had it almost by accident. She had a CT of the chest for a persistent cough, with no other physical symptoms or high-risk factors for a lung disease. She then went to her primary care physician and was initially relieved when she received the results. “There was no lung cancer, nothing like that, but sort of as a side note, there was mention that I had a lesion on my left kidney. When I reviewed it with my primary care doctor, everyone was relieved there was no lung cancer but hearing the words ‘kidney lesion’ was greatly concerning” she said.

    Concerning, indeed: it turned out to be kidney cancer, and in one of the most difficult places to reach in the body. With traditional surgery, Vivian knew she faced a massive incision from her navel around to her back, and a long recovery time too. But with the da Vinci surgical system, she was able to have the surgery with decreased recovery time, smaller risk of infection, and less blood loss. Her surgeon was able to remove the tumor and leave the rest of the kidney intact. And Vivian was left with the scars from six small incisions, which she now jokingly refers to as her “shark bites.”

    “I didn’t think about it prior to needing it, but when I needed it, the da Vinci equipment was there. As more and more surgeries are done with it, we need an additional one. I want to be part of that,” Vivian said.

    Vivian’s story will be shared at the ACI Luncheon: A Gold Medal Event, along with that of Mike Cashwell, Gary Exley, and Libby Malphrus, a fellow Memorial Team Member.

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