Patient Testimonial—Marilyn Michaels (Lobectomy)

My case is a complicated one. In 2006, two years after being treated for a gynecologic leiomyosarcoma - a smooth muscle tumor - I learned the cancer had metastasized to my left lung. I chose Dr. Michael Zervos at NYU Langone Medical Center to perform the surgery, and he did an open thoracotomy procedure to remove the tumor. Dr. Zervos was terrific, and following the surgery I continued to see him to get my lungs checked with a CT-scan every few months. Early in 2011, a second tumor was found, this time in my right lung. Dr. Zervos did another open thoracotomy, and the growth turned out to be benign. That fall, however, another scan revealed that the mass in my right lung was back. Dr. Zervos suggested that we wait a couple of months to see how it progressed. When the mass continued to grow, he did a lung biopsy in January, which showed that the leiomyosarcoma had returned. All I could think was, “I want this out!”

“We’re going to do the lung operation again,” Dr. Zervos said, “but this time I’d like to use robotic surgery to cut out the lower right lobe of the lung.” He told me that I’d have an easier recovery from the robotic procedure, and that he could also get a better result since the robot’s camera would let him see inside my lungs better, and its wrists would allow him to get into areas he couldn’t reach by hand. Dr. Zervos didn’t push the idea of the robot, but he said that since we were taking out the whole lobe, he wanted to make as clean a cut as possible with minimal interruption of my breathing, and that he felt the robot would let him do that. He also directed me to a website with videos of surgeons performing robotic procedures, and explained that he would be the one doing the actual surgery - the robot just follows his movements.

When I saw how much better the operation and my recovery would be, I agreed to go with the robotic approach. As it turns out, I’m very happy I did. Dr. Zervos performed the operation on a Friday and was able to get good clear edges around the tumor. By Monday I was up and walking the halls of the hospital, and on Tuesday I went home. That very next weekend I invited my family members over. They were quite surprised at how good I was feeling. The incisions from the robot really weren’t painful at all. In fact, I tend to forget they’re there. It’s really pretty amazing. I use a mirror to see how the incisions are healing, and they’re just little spots.

It’s now three weeks since my surgery, and I’m getting out and walking much more than I was at this point after my open procedures. My surgery the year before sapped all my strength. Normally I’m a very active person, but after that operation I had no energy and couldn’t go outside for five weeks. This time around, I’m already walking outside twice a day for a half-hour at a time. In fact, I need to find somewhere else to walk, because I’m getting bored with my own neighborhood! I could probably go back to work next week if I had to.

I feel very positive about the whole experience. Lung surgery is not pleasant any way you look at it, but if somebody has to have lung surgery and they have the opportunity to have it done robotically, I strongly recommend it.