A 62-year-old man was told he had just four days to live when he was diagnosed with an advanced tumor after examining pain in his right big toe in New Jersey (USA). Richard Bernstein had been uncomfortable at the site for five years and doctors could not detect the problem, according to the US newspaper New York Post. By luck and competence of the doctors, he was operated and the prognosis was reversed.
Initially, the man went to a podiatrist and nothing more serious was seen by the professional, according to him. “I thought I had fractured my toe, but he couldn’t find anything wrong with it.”
The pain soon progressed and reached his ankle two years after he started complaining of the pain. Bernstein went to a sports medicine doctor, who thought the patient had stenosis, a narrowing of the spaces within the spine that can be treated with physical therapy.
The picture worsened and the pain began to slightly affect the man’s mobility. In March of this year, the right leg swelled up noticeably. He went to the general practitioner, who performed an abdominal scan and immediately referred him to Michael Grasso, director of urology at Phelps Hospital, who soon broke the uncomfortable news:
He told me I had four days to live. Bernstein
The foot pain was actually kidney cancer. The exam showed that the man had a tumor at the site and a tumor thrombus that grew through the renal vein and that filled the vena cava, which is the main one that drains blood to the heart.
Grasso decided to hospitalize the man to undergo a procedure to remove the tumor, which, according to him, was complex. To make matters worse, the preoperative phase revealed other problems: two of Bernstein’s main coronary arteries were 99% blocked and his liver was failing because the disease was obstructing his function.
With the patient walking “a tightrope”, according to the doctor, he had to rely on the help of two other surgeons, cardiothoracic surgeon Jonathan Hemli and vascular surgeon Alfio Carroccio. “You have two situations that are life ending in a very short period of time, happening simultaneously.”
To successfully remove the tumor, surgeons took 12 hours to perform the procedure. “I can’t say I fully recognized the complexity when I walked in, although Grasso told me it was complex. There wasn’t much I could do about it and that attitude helped me,” Bernstein said.
Grasso explained that the pain manifested itself in the patient’s foot and ankle because of the venous block. “The vena cava was being blocked. There was pressure on his lower extremities,” Grasso said. Kidney cancer manifests itself when there is the evolution and progression of the tumor. There are few signs of the disease, which include back pain and even blood in the urine.
The patient considers that, if it weren’t for his leg, he would already be dead. “If my entire leg hadn’t swelled, I would have dropped dead,” Bernstein said.
After being sedated for three days and hospitalized for a week, he left the hospital and is now walking without help. The man is now struggling to regain the 30 kg lost during the operation.
Doctors believe that the entire tumor has been removed from Bernstein’s body and that, therefore, it is no longer necessary to carry out additional treatments, such as chemotherapy, prioritizing recovery from surgery.
Bernstein also recommended that people be sure to look for what they feel is wrong within the body. “My advice is that if something is wrong and they can’t find it, don’t give up looking. Trust your feelings about your own body.”