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Christine Crews Success Story Image

"They were able to give me options that other hospitals were not able to give me."

Christine Crews from Memphis, Tenn., thought she had a bladder infection, but it turned out to be bladder cancer. For 15 years, she fought it with chemotherapy and occasional tumor removals. But when the cancer spread to 80% of her bladder, she was told she would need to have her entire bladder removed.

Upon hearing this, Crews sought a second opinion. And another. But she still was not comfortable with the options given.

She wanted a quick and unobtrusive procedure so she can recover rapidly and resume her lifestyle and career as an exercise enthusiast, fitness instructor and personal trainer.

A urologist friend recommended Crews to City of Hope. There, she met Kevin Chan, M.D., associate clinical professor in the Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology.

After listening to Crews’ needs and concerns, Chan gave her an option no one else did: a minimally invasive robotically-assisted surgery, with a less invasive diversion called the Indiana pouch continent urinary reservoir.

In this procedure, also known as Indiana pouch, the surgeon creates an internal reservoir (pouch) for urine collection using the large intestine and a portion of the small intestine. Then he or she connects a piece of the small intestine to the outside of the skin and uses this as a small opening, or stoma. The surgeon then creates a one-way valve mechanism so that urine is kept inside the internal pouch and will not leak out onto the skin.

To empty the pouch, the patient inserts a small catheter into the stoma a few times a day. Perhaps best of all for an active fitness instructor, the stoma is located below Crews’ bikini line and is easily hidden with a Band-Aid.

“Everything I said I wanted out of the surgery, [Dr. Chan] did it,” Crews said.

Just a little over a month after the surgery, Crews was back at the gym teaching fitness classes and settling back into her presurgery life. Only the people she tells about her stoma know of its existence; no one else can detect any physical difference between Crews and any other fitness instructor.

“If it wasn’t for Dr. Chan and City of Hope, I don’t know where I would be,” Crews said. “I just feel very fortunate and blessed.”