Not much intimidates Anthony Santacroce, but a diagnosis of kidney cancer in his mid-50s and the prospect of the first surgery he’d ever had came really close. The alternative to surgery wasn’t very appealing, either.
Santacroce, now 66, credits his primary care provider for investigating the cause for his fatigue and anemia. Several rounds of tests finally yielded a referral to a urologist who said Santacroce had cancer in both kidneys, news that stunned the Burlington trial attorney. The prognosis without surgery was grim. Santacroce thought about his 12-year-old daughter, an only child.
“I was not afraid of dying as much as I was afraid she wouldn’t have her dad,” he says quietly.
Serendipity and a friend of a friend got him an appointment with Dr. Steven Shichman, physician-in-chief of the Tallwood Urology & Kidney Institute, for a second opinion. Santacroce and his wife, also an attorney, decided quickly that he would stay with Dr. Shichman for his care.
“He had enough confidence to say, ‘I’m going to operate and you’re going to feel like a new man,’” he says. “He’s a very personable and likeable guy, in addition to being a great surgeon.”
In August 2010, Dr. Shichman removed one kidney at Hartford Hospital. Two months later, Santacroce became one of the first patients to undergo a partial kidney removal using one of the hospital’s da Vinci surgical robots. By taking just part of the kidney, a procedure only performed by a few surgeons in Connecticut, Santacroce avoided dialysis.
“I’m probably healthier now than I ever was!” he says.
After his two surgeries, Santacroce was referred to a nephrologist for monitoring of the remaining kidney. In the process, he made several lifestyle changes, including adopting a vegetarian lifestyle. Animal-based proteins like meat and fish, he explains, require more work from the kidney, so he limits his intake to a bite of turkey on Thanksgiving or a nibble of salmon periodically.
Other than that, the only real reminder of his kidney cancer is an annual ultrasound and MRI, plus visits with Dr. Shichman and the nephrologist to monitor his kidney function.
“I couldn’t have hoped for a better result,” Santacroce says. “When I’m asked about urologists, I always recommend Dr. Shichman. As far as I’m concerned, he walks on water!”