Living a Full, Active Life

September 28, 2018

After beating kidney cancer, one Union City woman is grateful to receive thorough and compassionate ongoing care.

In 2013, Ana Galan, now 71, started noticing some unusual symptoms. The Union City resident wasn’t able to urinate during the day but was going frequently at night. Her primary care physician at the time sent her for a CT scan, which detected a cyst on her right kidney. He told her not to worry about it and to do a repeat scan in six months. “My son wasn’t happy with the physician’s recommendation and urged me to see his doctor,” she says.

So Ana made an appointment with Francisco Gonzalez, M.D., a primary care physician at Palisades Medical Center. Dr. Gonzalez reviewed the scans. “I didn’t like the appearance of the cyst, so I wanted to make sure we took a closer look,” he says. Dr. Gonzalez referred Ana to John Kerns, M.D., a urologist at Palisades. Dr. Kerns ordered another CT scan, which enabled them to visualize the lesion in more detail. The results showed the cyst was suspicious for cancer, so he recommended Ana undergo a biopsy. The biopsy revealed she had cancer.

“I was shocked,” she says. “I never expected to hear the words You have cancer.” Ultimately, Ana underwent a complete nephrectomy, having her right kidney removed. The cancer hadn’t spread beyond the kidney, so she didn’t require any additional treatment.

ONGOING CARE TO STAY WELL
Since 2013, Ana has received ongoing care from Dr. Gonzalez and Stephen Thomsen, M.D., a nephrologist at Palisades. She visits Dr. Gonzalez and Dr. Thomsen every three months, and the physicians are in close communication about Ana’s care. “For a patient like Ana, close follow-up is essential,” Dr. Gonzalez says. “Given the fact that she has only one kidney, we want to do everything we can to prevent further deterioration of her kidney function.”

Dr. Gonzalez works closely with Ana to provide preventive care. He makes sure her blood pressure and cholesterol levels are well-controlled and that she doesn’t develop diabetes, which can damage her kidney.

In addition, whenever Ana needs to take a new medication, she always discusses it with Dr. Gonzalez first. For example, she has to take medicine to treat severe knee osteoarthritis, but the dose she takes is limited because she has only one kidney to filter it. Dr. Gonzalez always safely guides Ana through managing her medications and routinely checks her kidney function to ensure she stays well.

‘I WOULDN’T GO ANYWHERE ELSE’
Thanks to the care that Dr. Gonzalez and other physicians have provided along the way, Ana is able to lead a busy and active life. She enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, is very involved in her community and travels.

“No words can adequately describe the gratitude I feel for Dr. Gonzalez or his kindness or compassion,” Ana says. “I’m also so grateful for the care and attention I’ve received at Palisades. They treat me like family. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”

STORIES OF SURVIVAL
Learn about our superior clinical care and personalized cancer services, and find more inspirational stories at HackensackMeridianHealth.org/Cancer.