For most of his 56 years, Michael Hernandez had been the picture of health. He lifted weights in his basement gym. He ate nutritious meals. He didn’t smoke and he gave up drinking years ago. And, like clockwork, he got an annual physical exam.
“But last summer he started feeling tired all the time,” says Alisa Hernandez, his wife of 32 years.
Michael’s Ascension Medical Group doctors ordered a blood test and follow-up sonogram of his abdomen. His liver and gallbladder looked fine, but a dark shadow was plainly visible on one of his kidneys.
After initial evaluation of X-rays and further scans, the spot was noted to be a locally advanced cancer — one that has spread from where it started to nearby tissue or lymph nodes.
“The news hit us like a ton of bricks,” says Alisa. ”And then, we had to tell the kids.”
The Hernandezes have three grown children and 10 grandchildren who range in age from 2 to 14.
Members of the Ascension Medical Group urology team in Wichita — Clay E. Lyddane, MD; Rami Indudhara, MD; and Surendra Kolla, MD — carefully discussed treatment options with Michael and his family, and recommended robotic-assisted surgery to remove the affected kidney.
Cancer: A family disease
“Kidney cancer is among the top 10 most common cancers and usually occurs in patients in their 60s and 70s,” says Dr. Kolla. “It’s fairly unusual to see it in someone of Mr. Hernandez’s age.”
But no matter the patient’s age, cancer affects the entire family, he adds. That’s why all three doctors encouraged other family members to join Alisa and Michael at medical appointments, to lend support — and ask questions.
“We all knew we could ask our doctors anything and they’d answer us, right then and there,” says Michael. “That really put our minds at ease.”
Robotic surgery: Faster, better patient recovery
Drs. Indudhara and Lyddane performed Michael’s surgery in August using the da Vinci® Robotic Surgery System at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph in Wichita.
“Most kidney surgeries at Via Christi are done using the robotic system because it allows surgeons to operate through a few tiny incisions instead of one large one, meaning less pain and faster recovery for our patients,” says Dr. Indudhara.
Michael’s hospital stay was just a few days. He continued his recovery at home, and was able to return to his longtime job at Metal-Fab, Inc. by the end of October.
As with most cancer patients, Michael will need checkups every few months to watch for signs of new or recurring cancers.
“But so far, so good,” says Michael. “I just had a three-month checkup and I’m cancer-free.”
Faith, attitude are key
While Michael and Alisa appreciate the expert, compassionate care they’ve received from their Via Christi physicians, they know there’s more behind Michael’s successful recovery.
“Cancer can be scary,” says Michael, “but when you have faith in God and stay positive, you can get through anything.
“These kids just want their grandpa to be around for them,” he adds, glancing at his living room wall, which is covered with photos of his children and many grandchildren. “Knowing that is what keeps me strong.”
Learn more about the urologists with Ascension Medical Group in Wichita and Newton at viachristi.org/urologists.