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UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

John Bailey — Strength and perseverance in recovery from kidney cancer


John Bailey

John Bailey had been having trouble with kidney stones since the late 1980s — two or three a year, by his estimation. Then, in 2002, he was diagnosed with cancer in his right kidney. His urologist at the time said that his right kidney and part of the left would need to be removed. A second opinion confirmed the diagnosis on the right kidney, which was subsequently removed, but the left kidney was spared.

Bailey went back to work and returned for an MRI every year. “For a while, everything was looking pretty good,” he said. But in late 2011, he and his doctor in Auburn — Dr. Gregory Spin, who had done his fellowship at UC Davis Health System — discovered that the left kidney now had cancer.

Kidney cancer claims the lives of more than 13,000 men and women in the U.S. every year.  When found early and with proper treatment, it is highly curable. Since it was Bailey’s sole remaining kidney, Spin wanted to save as much as he could. He referred Bailey to UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, where Dr. Marc Dall’Era, a specialist in urologic oncology, confirmed the diagnosis.

“Mr. Bailey had a particularly difficult problem, having developed cancer in both of his kidneys over time,” Dall’Era said. “Our plan was to perform a complex removal of the tumor from his kidney while preserving what limited kidney tissue he had left.”

The seven-hour surgery was complicated but successful; the cancer was removed, and about one-third of the left kidney was saved. Bailey spent five days in the hospital before returning home and beginning dialysis two days later.

Although Bailey would have a successful outcome, his journey there was complicated. “It was quite a process,” said Suzi Bailey, John’s wife of 45 years, with good humor. Complications included problems with catheter needed for dialysis, subsequent blood clots and bleeding, which required an emergency blood transfusion.

Adjustments were made in his regimen and home dialysis finally began to smooth out. He gets peritoneal dialysis — a 14-hour daily process — but  looks forward to reducing that time with his doctor’s approval. “Although he does need dialysis, he has part of a functional kidney left in place and is currently disease-free,” Dall’Era said. The outcome so far, they agree, is as good as it can be.

And fortunately, the dialysis machine is fairly portable, which allows him and his wife to still enjoy vacations — like taking two of their grandkids on a road trip up and down the Oregon coast, or spending a week in Bodega Bay.

Overall, Bailey is pleased with the care he’s received from UC Davis Medical Center. “The nurses were very prompt about getting things, doing things for him, and being forthcoming with answers,” Suzi said.

“Dr. Dall’Era keeps up with me every six months for a sonogram or a CT scan to make sure there’s no recurrence,” Bailey said. “All my scans have been clear so far. After my last scan in January 2013, he called to let us know the results — and that he wouldn’t need to see me until the summer. I was impressed. And if I remain cancer-free until November 2014, I’ll be granted a spot on the transplant list.”

“Mr. Bailey has made a remarkable recovery due in large part to his strength and perseverance in the setting of an incredible social support network of family and friends,” said Dall’Era.

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